Thanksgiving day is this month, of course. But thanksgiving is more than a day. It is just one aspect of worship, and worship is the life of the church and of each Christian. Jesus said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (Jn 4:23) The Father seeks worshipers. Are you a worshiper?
Thanksgiving Day is rooted in the Pilgrims. While some details of that day are apocryphal tales, the rock bottom truth is that the Pilgrims came to America to establish a new life for themselves. They wanted that life to be centered on Jesus Christ. They suffered horribly during the first winter. Over half their number died of starvation and disease. AND YET when their first harvest came in, they held a feast of thanksgiving.
I’m not sure that American Christians today view worship with the same fervor as did the Pilgrims. For us, worship is an option competing with a plethora of choice. And often, if our action is any measure, worship is the last choice on the list.
It is true that Christians can worship in places other than a worship service. In fact, we should be worshiping every moment.
However, the fact that we can worship in places other than church doesn’t mean the church service can be replaced. No, it is supplemented by private worship. But church is when we worship together.
“The Sunday morning church service is generally recognized as the church’s chief expression of itself to its community. ” (Haley’s Bible Handbook, p. 835) The worship service says there is a living God, and God is worth our praise. The worship service serves the worshipers who gather by centering their lives around Disciple-Living.
Someone may say that because I am a pastor I get paid to go to church. But that is not why I go. I go to church to worship. My God has given me life. Every breath I draw is by his mercy. I am blessed with a wonderful family, grandchildren, and my daughter’s in-laws are friends and Christians. I can buy fresh strawberries from Peru in the dead of winter. And beyond all this Jesus Christ gave up his life so that my sin could be washed away and I can stand in the presence of God as his child.
Thanksgiving Day is but a moment, a reminder to be thankful. Giving thanks is just one part of worship and I am called to be a worshiper of the one, true and living God. I pray that this Thanksgiving season you would seek a new desire for worship. Let us worship our God together for only he is deserving of our praise.
Dear Friends -
What is the target of your life? Very often we don’t have a conscious, or deliberate goal that guides our most important decisions. We may ask at some point, “What do I want to do for a living?” and that is critical, but our job or career is not the same as our life. We may ask, “Do we want children?” and that demands our serious answer, but having children is a part of the whole of life. What is the target you aim for in your life.
In Galatians 5 Paul lists the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Calling these virtues fruit of the Spirit means the Holy Spirit produces them in the lives of Christians. They are not the result of human effort alone. Each quality comes from the Spirit living and working within us. Paul reflects the perspective that Jesus described in John 14. He said, “Abide in me and you will produce abundant fruit.”
Then Paul wrote, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25) That phrase “keep in step with the Spirit” fascinates me.
“Keep in step” suggests two things to me. First, it suggests the direction in which we are moving. When a body of soldiers is moving from one place to another together, they march, they match themselves to the step another. Keeping in step with the Holy Spirit suggests the same image, matching ourselves to the Holy Spirit. When we have choices to make, we chose to go in the Spirit’s direction. Since love is an attribute of the Spirit, we keep in step with him, turning away from anger, conflict, and self-serving action, and move toward reconciliation, understanding and cooperation.
“Keeping in step” also suggests that we keep moving. We keep marching, we keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can’t keep in step if you stop.
Stopping is perhaps the biggest enemy of continuing progress. It’s hard to press on, and easy to quit. But the attitude that makes the difference in the long run is the determination to keep on keeping on.
So when you look at your life, what is the target you are aiming for? Is your goal to love God with all you are, and love your neighbor as yourself? Is your goal to be as much like your Master Jesus Christ as is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit? Or is your goal earn a living, (important but not everything), enjoy comforts and entertainments (good but not all there is)? Think about it so that you can decide what your goal is, what reaching the goal would look like, and how you expect to get there.
Keep in step with the Spirit and you will move toward the goal of Disciple-Living.
- Pastor Byron
Dear Friends -
Ever find yourself in a situation in which you simply don’t know how something works?
A new home owner walked into a hardware store and asked for a chainsaw. The salesman recommended the top of the line model. It could cut down 6 trees an hour. The man was impressed and bought it. The next day he brought it back, complaining that it didn’t work. He cut down one tree and it took ALL DAY! The salesman took the chain saw, pulled the rope and it started right up. The home owner shouted, “What’s that noise?”
It is easy to miss out on good things simply because we don’t know what we need to know. – That is true in daily life. It is also true in our faith. Not knowing what the Bible teaches about our God, ourselves and our lives can lead us to miss out on a lot of good things.
I write that to encourage you to read your Bible! Reading your Bible regularly holds the promise of providing you with the knowledge that can guide your life.
If you have a regular habit of reading the Bible, great! Keep it up. If you don’t have that habit, start NOW.
There may be times when this discipline doesn’t seem to produce results. The Bible is not an easy book. The most recent parts are 2000 years old. Some of the references are confusing. Some parts are more difficult to understand than are others. Some parts are familiar and so when we read them we think, “I know that. I don’t really need to pay attention.”
Remember we often compared the Word of God to a seed. Jesus did this in the parable of the soils (Mt 13). And one thing we know about a seed; you don’t get fruit the same day you plant the it. It takes time for a seed to grow and produce fruit.
It takes some time for the Bible to have an impact in your life. If you become discouraged and stop reading, you have stopped planting seed. If you stop planting you won’t get any fruit. By regular reading of the Bible you can plant the seed that nourishes your mind and your soul, and produces fruit that pleases the Lord.
Here are some ideas for beginning to read the Bible.
Reading the Bible is good for your soul. Plant some seed today, and tomorrow you may just reap a harvest of good things.
~ Pastor Byron
Friday was a beautiful day. I was outside almost all day. I mowed the grass, trimmed the hedge, used the weed wacker, did a little painting, and just sat on the porch. I was sore and tired when the sun went down but I felt renewed. A day outside, in the sun seemed to soak into my soul.
Maybe you have felt the same way after a day in the sun. And haven’t you found yourself similarly renewed in other situations.
Is it no wonder then that we need to be renewed spiritually? Our spirits contend with the world just as our bodies and minds do. Our spirits become worn by daily life and by periods of struggle or suffering.
Wesley taught the early Methodists to employ the means of grace for their spiritual renewal.
He listed these practices in the General Rules for the United Societies (the original name of the Methodist movement in England):
He also added conversation with other believers designed to encourage us and hold us accountable.
So this summer take advantage of blue skies, family reunions, and outdoor BBQs. And do not neglect your spirit.
Here are some thoughts on prayer:
God knows our limits because he created us. He doesn’t think less of us because we have to return to him again and again for spiritual fuel. In fact, that practice is a huge part of faith. So keep the faith this summer. Renew your spirit. You will not regret it.
~ Pastor Byron
This month we see two great days in the life of the church. Father’s Day is June 16 and Pentecost is June 9. I’m glad these two days come so close together this year. It reminds us that good fathers need the Holy Spirit in their lives to do their job.
Pentecost is the day the resurrected Lord Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on his followers in Jerusalem. Acts 1 reads, “... (the disciples) gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”
Even after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples were more interested in restoring the national sovereignty of Israel than in the spread of the kingdom of God in the hearts of men and women. But Jesus said, “Don’t worry about times and dates. The Father has all that cared for. YOUR concern is to live for and witness to me. To do that you need the Holy Spirit. So wait until you have received him.”
The Holy Spirit is God’s plan for us to live the Christian life. One wonderful result of the finished work of the cross is that the redeemed are prepared throughGod’s grace and forgiveness to receive the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Holy Spirit
means God is within every believer to empower us for life and ministry in Jesus’ name.
The Holy Spirit is very practical. In Galatians 5 Paul lists what he calls the “fruit of the Spirit.” His list includes patience and kindness. Have you ever needed patience? Have you ever lost your patience or been unkind? If the answer is yes, then the Holy Spirit is for you, for he is the one who causes these virtues to grow in the Christian life. (For a complete list of the fruit of the Spirit see Gal. 5:22-25.)
And fathers, have your ever lost patience? Have you ever been unkind to your kids? I sure have. Don’t we want to love our children and grandchildren with all our heart? And don’t we want to prove that love by consistently treating them with loving action? And aren’t there times when we blow it? Then the Holy Spirit is very practical for men who are fathers.
It’s not easy to be a good dad. There are so many demands. Isn’t it great to know that because of Christ we have divine help. We won’t be perfect, but we can step up and do the job with the power of Christ in our lives.
~ Pastor Byron
Dear Friends -
Easter Sunday is just past. Did you know this is the season of Easter. “Eastertide” helps us remember that the resurrection of Christ changed everything. The life we live, the hope we share, the purpose of life, all are changed because we live in a world changed by Easter.
What has Christ done in his resurrection?
1 Pt. 3:21b “(we are saved) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection can’t be separated, even though they are distinct. Jesus’ death atones for sin, his resurrection brings new life.
We have new life. Romans 6:5b,6b “...we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his....that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Paul didn’t say we won’t be tempted. He said we are no longer “slaves” of sin, owned by and controlled by it.
We are sanctified. Romans 6:13 “...offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” All of our lives the Spirit of God works to transform us so that we are purified, expressing the fruit of the Spirit, and seeking God.
Christ intercedes for us. Romans 8:34 “Jesus Christ who died... is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Do you know someone who really prays and gets answers? Think of Christ interceding for you at the throne of the Father!
We will be glorified. Here is the ultimate expression of salvation. We will be raised to eternal life, and transformed. 1 John3:2 “...when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
And finally, all of God’s creation will be redeemed through the work of Christ. Romans 8:21 “...creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Christianity teaches that God will redeem all of his creation. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. God will live with his people: he will be their God and they shall be his people ... and death and mourning shall be no more, because the old order of things will pass away. (cf Rev. 21)
See what a great salvation God has given us in Jesus Christ, and find peace and joy in him.
~ Pastor Byron
A Note on Church Security –
Our church is working to make Grace a safer place. Seven members of Grace recently attended a church security seminar. They have also met with a security expert here at the church. He has seen our facility and made recommendations to increase safety. There will be some changes, but every change will be properly approved, carefully explained, and is intended to make Grace a safe place for everyone. Thank you for your understanding.
Dear Friends - The events in Jerusalem from Palm Sunday through Friday conclude Jesus’ ministry on earth.
Jesus had traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Along the way a crowd joined him and the twelve. These people had heard Jesus’ words, seen the miracles, tasted the bread and fish.
When Jesus reached Bethany he mounted a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. The prophet had foretold the messiah would come on a donkey. Jesus, as Old Testament prophets did, put God’s word into action so all could hear and see it. The Messiah has come! The crowd saw the sign and sang in joyfully praise, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jesus entered the Temple, drove out merchants selling sacrifices, sat down and began to teach. As they had so often before, the blind and broken came and Jesus healed them.
Every day that week, Monday through Thursday Jesus went to the Temple to teach. At the same time, priests prepared the lambs for the Passover sacrifice. Each lamb had to be carefully inspected. If it had any imperfection, sign of illness, wound, or scar, it was rejected.
In the Temple courts Jesus, too, was examined for any defect. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar,” asked some Pharisees. Jesus couldn’t say No, or the Romans would arrest him. He couldn’t say Yes, or the crowd would desert him. It was the perfect trap. Would Jesus have a perfect answer? “Give Caesar what is his,” Jesus said, “and be sure to give God what is his.” Jesus eluded the trap, and reminded them and us to love God with all we are. Flawless! Even Pilate would agree. “I find no fault in him,” he would say.
Thursday night Jesus ate Passover with his disciples. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. Friday morning they led him to Golgotha and nailed him to a cross. Even here Jesus was faultless. He forgave his executioners. He assured the penitent thief of life in the Kingdom of God. He did not save himself so that he might save others. He commended his soul to his Father, and breathed his last breath.
And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The way to the Father was opened by the sacrifice of Christ.
They buried him in a tomb carved into the limestone, one which had never been used. And they sealed the tomb with a stone. And the world went on about its business ...
Wait a minute, preacher, that’s not the end!
No, it sure isn’t!
~ Pastor Byron
Do you recall the story of Saul (who becomes Paul) in the book of Acts? Saul began as a foe of the Christian faith, of the church, and of Jesus Christ. He approved when Stephen was stoned to death for blasphemy when he preached Jesus (Ac 7). Saul then began an organized persecution of the church, seeking out believers in Jerusalem and all the way to Damascus to arrest, imprison, and even execute believers.
BUT Acts 9 records Saul’s conversion, and immediately Saul began to preach Jesus as crucified and raised from the dead. What a huge change!
For the rest of his life Saul, now Paul, gave himself to preaching Jesus - because “Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
That concept is probably very familiar to you. Certainly the idea that Jesus saves is. But since this statement is true, so new questions come to my mind.
Why the cross? Was there no other way?
How can the death of one man save all men and women from sin and death?
What does the cross have to do with me?
How am I actually saved through the cross?
Paul was absolutely certain of his own salvation. How can that be given all the things he did?
Can I be so certain? Should I be?
There are tremendous answers to these questions in God’s word. As Lent begins on Wednesday March 6 and continues through to Easter, April 21 this is a perfect time to think about the sacrifice of Christ, and what it does for me and you. So I plan to explore all this in messages during the Lent season.
I’m not sure I can answer every question, but I bet we can figure out a lot together as we study the Bible. I hope you will come along on the journey.
As I said, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6. As Jesus fasted for 40 days before he began his public ministry, Lent is 40 days. The length of the season reminds us that in all of life we are following Jesus Christ our Lord. We can fast and pray, study and heed God’s word and be changed to resemble Christ even more.
So I hope you will mark Lent this year. You can fast (that is take no food only water) or abstain (eat limited and simple foods) one day a week during Lent. You can also adopt a practice of service during the season: visit home bound friends or Grace’s shut-ins, help a family with small children with a meal once a week.
And then, study God’s word. I think you will be blessed as you hear and follow God’s voice.
~ Pastor Byron
For several weeks we’ve been talking about writing a spiritual goal or theme to guide us through the year. You are probably ready to move on to another subject. But let me say one more thing before we do. Let’s Get Started!
I was reminded several weeks ago about the acronym for a well- conceived goal. It’s S.M.A.R.T.
Wikipedia lists multiple expressions of SMART. These are the ideas I like.
S= be specific: You should be able to break it down into smaller steps.
M = be measurable: Can you determine when you have reached it.
A= attainable: You should be able to reach the goal. Learning a new language
in one day is unattainable but in one year more attainable.
R = relevant: do I care if I reach this goal? It has to matter at least to me.
T = Time-bound: You have a deadline.
I’m interested in that first letter, S - how can I break my goal down into smaller actionable steps? You’ve heard the adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Small steps are what get us to the big goal. Have you thought about the steps that will get you moving toward your goal?
Here are some helpful thoughts on developing smaller steps.
First, break the big goal into Milestones. Some steps might be: Gather Resources, Ask for Guidance, Build a system of Support and Encouragement, Implement what you Learn from the Resources. The milestones you outline will depend on your goal and your starting place so they will vary from person to person and from goal to goal.
Second, develop a task list for the first milestone. You don’t have to have a task list for every milestone, but develop it for your first one. If you are gathering reading resources you may want to identify the best sources, obtain them from a library or purchase them, and schedule time to read and study.
Third, complete the tasks on your list toward your milestone. That’s pretty straightforward.
Fourth, evaluate. Did you spend too much time on this aspect of your goal? What was most helpful? What have you learned? How will the list help in reaching your next milestone?
Fifth, develop task list for the next milestone and repeat.
It’s good to have a direction for your spiritual life. I’m praying you will write yours and strive toward your goal and discover God’s blessing as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ Pastor Byron
Click here toDear Friends -
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:20)
The Bible frequently and emphatically repeats God’s promise of his gracious presence. The Lord says to Joshua “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9) Hebrews 13:5 reads, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
You might notice that in Matthew and Joshua, God’s promise is directly connected to his command to us to obey. In Matthew, Jesus commanded us to make disciples. It ends with, “I am with you to the end of the age.” Joshua is about to lead Israel across the Jordan River into the promised land. They will face many dangers and temptations, but the Lord says, “Don’t be afraid. I will be with you wherever you go.”
In other words, the Lord gives us these promises to encourage us to trust him while we strive to live for him. The Lord has said, “I know that obeying me won’t be easy, or without risk. You will have to live in a less self-focused way, by taking up your cross. BUT, the risk will not overwhelm you, the challenge won’t defeat you, and taking up your cross will lead you to life, because I am with you.”
With Christmas the old year ends and we enter a new year, reminded that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. None of us knows what this year will be like, but if we belong to Christ, none of us will live it without Christ with us.
So let me encourage you to live by faith. Face the challenges that may come, with the confidence that Christ Jesus is with you, Emmanuel. Live life looking for ways to intentionally serve Christ. You can step outside your comfort zone because Jesus is with you, Emmanuel. Lead your family in such a way that there is no question among your children or for your spouse that you are following Christ, and remember there will be wonderful results because Jesus is with you, Emmanuel.
Your feelings will not always match the reality of Christ’s presence, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there. If you ride a roller coast you feel the rush of fear, that’s why you are there. But you are still safe. You would not have gotten on the ride if you thought otherwise. Christ’s presence is more sure and much stronger than the restraining bar holding you in your roller coaster seat. Hold on to him.
Let’s live in Emmanuel. January is a great time to evaluate and recommit ourselves to him.
Happy New Year,
~ Pastor Byron
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.