Ponderings for July 12 2017

Happy Wednesday Trinity.

This Sunday we will be discussing another day: The Sabbath Day. While we will have a lot to say regarding what observing means and doesn’t mean, let me share a few comments from some Jewish writers regarding the Sabbath:

“You can keep every Shabbot (Sabbath) to the letter of the Law, but unless Shabbot (Sabbath) reaches the deepest place in your heart, you haven’t kept Shabbot.” (Shlomo Carlebach)

“All of the creative energy that Work Adam uses to master the elements, Rest Adam uses to master his own inner spirit. Work Adam is always lunging forward, while Rest Adam knows there is dignity in retreat.” (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach)

“Happy are those who walk the streets of the world with the fragrance of Shabbot (Sabbath).” (Shlomo Carlbach)

 More of the nuances and blessings of the Sabbath this Sunday as we continue our message series, “Loving by the Rules.”

Speaking of this Sunday, we will be headed to Mentor Headlands Beach State Park to enjoy big group picnic/cookout at 5:00pm (bring a dessert to share). We will also celebrate the baptism of several of our friends in the Lake Erie waters!

We are all praying for Sarah Erlandson who is undergoing surgery today to remove a brain tumor. May God’s healing power and peace encompass her and David (and their boys) today and beyond!

That’s all for now.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for July 3 2017

Yesterday we worshiped with one voice, declaring together that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church and of our lives. And that, in Him, we are free indeed! 

Tomorrow we celebrate our nation’s birth and independence. We may enjoy a day off with family and the parades and fireworks. But we also celebrate America’s freedom from outside forces and tyranny! The fourth of July is an important holiday, remembering our country’s past and looking to her future as we all strive to make her a force for good in the world.

Sunday. And Tuesday.

We remember Jesus’ famous “render unto Caesar and unto to God” remark, wherein he reminds us to keep patriotism and worship in their own lanes.  Faithful dual citizenship is what Christ calls us to.  There are two fundamental realms that we must wisely navigate (Christ’s “kingdom” and the kingdom “of this world”).  And while there is interplay and even influence from one to the other, they must never be confused with one another.  And yet as “salt and light”, Christ followers are called to make a spiritual impact in the world in which they find themselves. That’s us. That’s here. As Christians in America or wherever we find ourselves.

We love our community and this country and support her, with our work and our money and our allegiance.  And we pray for America, for peace and freedom, for civility and integrity. 

And still the banner we worship under, that we wrap ourselves in; the banner which unifies and truly gives us liberty is that of Christ.  And as “aliens” in this world we long for the day we are truly “home.” 

Tuesday will be great birthday party for the United States of America.

Yesterday we lifted up the name of Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And not just yesterday…Every day! 

Forever and ever.
 
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for June 30 2017

Ok, one more installment on this pesky subject of idolatry and false gods in our lives. 

First my definition that I will discuss on Sunday: 
“Biblically speaking, an idol is something other than the True God that gives us security; that provides for us reference point for meaning and value; that we willingly serve; and that rules over us.”  (Here are biblical passages that help inform my definition: Psalm 119:133; Matt 6:24; 1 Cor.10:6; Col. 3:5). 

In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller offers these helpful words and “tests” that assist us in spotting our places of personal idolatry:

One way requires that we look at our imagination.

 Archbishop William Temple once said, “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy day-dreaming about? What is it that occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about? Do you develop potential scenarios about career advancement? Or material goods such as a dream home? Or a relationship with a particular person? One or two day dreams do not indicate idolatry. Ask rather, what do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?

Another way to discern your heart’s true love is to look at how you spend your money.

 Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” (Matt 6:21) Your money flows most effortlessly toward your heart’s greatest love. In fact, the mark of an idol is that you spend too much money on it, and you must try to exercise self-control constantly. As St Paul has written, if God and his grace is the thing in the world you love most, you will give your money away to ministry, charity, and the poor in astonishing amounts (2 Cor 8:7-9). For most of us, however, we tend to over spend on clothing, or on our children, or on status symbols such as homes and cars. This reveals our idols.

A third way to discern idols works best for those who have professed a faith in God.

 You may regularly go to a place of worship where you are a member. You may have a full, devout set of doctrinal beliefs. You may be trying very hard to believe and obey God. However, what is your real, daily functional salvation? What are you really living for, what is your real—not just your professed—God? A good way to discern this is how you respond to unanswered prayers and frustrated hopes. If you ask for something that you don’t get, you may become sad and disappointed. Then you go on. Hey, life’s not over. Those are not your functional masters. But when you pray and work for something and you don’t get it and you respond with explosive anger or deep despair, then you may have found your real god. Like Jonah, you become angry enough to die.

A final test is for anyone to use. Look at your most uncontrollable emotions. Just as a fisherman looking for fish knows to go where the water is roiling, look for your idols at the bottom of painful emotions, especially those that never seem to lift and that drive you to do things you know are wrong. If you are angry, ask, “Is there something here too important to me, something I am telling myself I have to have at all costs?” Do the same thing about strong fear or despair and guilt. Ask yourself “Am I so scared, because something is being threatened, which I think is a necessity when it is not? Am I so down on myself because I have lost or failed at something which I think is a necessity when it is not?” If you are over-working, driving yourself into the ground with frantic activity, ask yourself, “Do I feel that I must have this thing to be fulfilled and significant?” When you ask questions like that, when you “pull your emotions up by the roots,” as it were, sometimes you will find your idols clinging to them.

See you Sunday
Pastor Paul 

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Ponderings for June 29 2017

Do you know what is arguably the most discussed “sin-problem” in the Bible? You probably guessed it if you have been receiving and reading the Ponderings each day this week.

It is idolatry.

I am afraid what is prevalent in biblical times is still a big deal today.

I write this not to heap guilt (for if you are in Christ he has borne your guilt), but to remind us as believers we are the “bride of Christ” and how unhealthy it is to flirt with strangers when we are already spoken for. Not to mention that, quite often, our Lord calls himself “a jealous God.”

Enough from me. Here are some wise words, on the subject of idolatry, from someone much wiser than me:

The great Reformer John Calvin wrote, “The human heart is a factory of idols. Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, an expert in inventing idols…The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for June 28 2017

We are steaming toward Sunday where we will grapple with the Lord’s words regarding “no gods before him,” and the entertaining of idols.

Here are two sides of the same coin:

On the one side, we are warned against thinking about God in ways that are incorrect and unworthy of him. It is easy to do. It didn’t take long for the original audience of the 10 Commandments to turn their image of God into a golden calf! It is also easy to do in our American, consumeristic context. Though maybe not a metal cow, my God easily becomes one who exists to meet my needs, makes me feel good about myself and takes care of all my pains and problems, not unlike the hospital nurse who comes running when I put my light on. What a diluting of God’s holiness and greatness! A simple study of the Scriptures (maybe start with Isaiah) would go a long way toward guarding against this.

The other side of this coin cautions me about replacing my trust in and loyalty to the Lord with anything (be it my job, sports, my country, my money or even my family). That subtle exchange is at the very heart of idolatry.  From the very start, God warned his people about putting their ultimate trust in the power of their armies or the wisdom of their leaders or the gold in their pockets. I must be really careful of this. We all do! I have known very nice people who have made false gods out of otherwise very good things (e.g. a system of theology, a political position, an investment portfolio, patriotism, even their own kids). By the way, it is much easier to see other people’s idols than it is to see our own.

The words of the aging Apostle John are as apropos today as they were in the first century, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Amen.”

Pastor Paul


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