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January 7, 2016, 10:55 AM

A Contradiction in Scripture



In my life and in my experience I have heard a lot about the bible being full of contradictions. But, in my own personal study, I haven't found that to be the case. That is, until recently. As we study the 9th commandment today, I think it is wise for us to realize that the bible says not to lie while also demonstrating exceptions to that rule. While this may not be a full blown contradiction that brings the integrity of scripture into question, it is something unusual that warrants a look. 

There are at least two times that scripture seems to say that it was good for someone to break the ninth commandment. The first glaring exception to the ninth commandment happens in Exodus 1:15-20. Here we find the midwives for the Hebrew women lying to Pharaoh about why they did not follow a direct order.  Another obvious exception happens in Joshua chapter 2. Here we find Rahab lying to her government about the location of some Hebrew spies. 

The most peculiar thing about these exceptions is that in both cases, scripture points to the fact that God blesses these individuals for lying. Why is that? Why would God bless someone for breaking His commandment? While I cannot say that any of my reasons are 100% correct, I do feel that they are very solid possibilities. 

1. Their lying saved lives – In both circumstances, the lies told saved the lives of the individual and other people. Had Rahab admitted to hiding spies, she would have been executed for treason along with the spies. Had the midwives admitted to intentionally disobeying a direct order from Pharaoh, they would have placed their lives and the lives of the children at risk.

2. Their lying accomplished the will of God – In both cases, the lies told played a role in God's will being accomplished. In the case of the midwives, God was growing His chosen people into a mighty nation. Also, God's leader for His people in the person of Moses, was one of the baby boys born during that time. In the case of Rahab, God's will was the fall of Jericho as the Israelites conquered the Promised Land. In both cases, the lies diverted the efforts of those opposing or resisting God's will. 
3. Their lying was an affirmation of their faith in God – In both cases, the individuals lied because they feared God.  Instead of fearing those who were opposing the will of God, they feared God.  This was an evidence of their faith in God as greater and more powerful than their culture's authorities and gods.
While these three points do not explain away the fact that there seems to be exceptions to the ninth commandment, I think it is important for us to view these curious occurrences in light of their context.  In this proper context, we see that these exceptions occur within a very narrow set of circumstances. 

 

 

 




December 26, 2015, 4:12 PM

2015 Year End Review


I always think it is a good to take a moment after Christmas and look back on the year that has passed, and then to look forward to the year that is coming.  Without moments like these, it is hard to confidently steer the ship.  It is easy to get caught up in the day to day happenings of life and lose focus on the overall big picture of progress. 

2015 has been a busy year.  It has been a year full of ups and downs.  For me personally, it has been a year full of God's blessings, and I hope it has been the same to you.  Our church has seen a lot of transition and change throughout 2015, especially in our children's ministry.  Not only did we get a new Wednesday Night director, but we also broke in an entirely new program.  Mrs. Misty Sparks has done a great job of leading TeamKIDs this fall. 

You may notice that around the church, things are looking a little different.  The building and grounds crew have been very hard at work this year.  The first thing you may notice different about the church is the awnings.  Those were long overdue for being replaced and they look great.  You may also notice that the family life center looks a little different.  The building and grounds committee along with the help of several men in the church, built a new structure along the south wall.  The room has provided the proper storage for wedding and event supplies as well as our tables and chairs.  Not only does it look much better, it is also the right size and I believe much safer.  Above that is some much needed storage for larger items.  The life center looks more complete and is a little more functional.  The large white space on the new structure came in very handy for Adult VBS this year. 

We also had some pretty great events this year.  Our VBS was lead by Mrs. Kathy Stobaugh.  We saw over 60 kids come through and had 5 salvations.  We also had a very good Adult VBS lead by Mrs. Brenda Riley.  One of my favorite events this year was lead by Mrs. Linda Moody.  It was called “Sit at My Table” and it raised over a thousand dollars for foreign missions.  It is an event that I hope we add to our calendar every year. 

One thing that I am very excited about is our new Sunday School class.  The class does not yet have a name, but it is aimed at the 20-40 year old age range.  It is taught by Mark and Lisa Martin.  I'm excited that we started a new class and that it is bringing people to Sunday School that we not actively involved in Sunday School before.  It is my goal to start at least one new class each year. 

While 2015 was full of many encouraging moments, it also involved a lot of heart ache.  Some of you have faced struggles in your personal life.  A few of you have been affected by layoffs and plant closings.  Many of you dealt with the loss of a loved one.  These are the moments that have caused me to feel the real weight and burden of being a pastor.  No matter if it is sudden and unexpected or if it comes at the end of a long journey, the loss of a loved one is never easy.  But, in the middle of the heart aches, it is brought me great joy to see our people respond.  This year, I have witnessed Sunday School classes take care of members much like Acts 4 describes.  This year, I have seen God at work even on the hardest days of the job. 

One piece of business that is still left unfinished from 2015 is the hiring of a new Youth Pastor.  While I believe that we are getting close, I realize that God could always lead us in a direction that is unexpected.  However, I think I speak for the youth committee as well when I say that finding the right person is far more important than finding a person to fill a position.   I believe that God will continue to lead us toward the right person.  In the mean time, the youth committee has done a fantastic job of stepping in and filling the gap. 

Overall I feel like 2015 has been a successful year for us as a church.  It has not always looked and felt as successful as I wanted it too.  Sometimes we have had to take steps backwards in order to take steps forward.  Sometimes those steps forward have come slower than I wanted.  But, sometimes we have to allow God to change our definition of success.  We must always remember that our number one gauge of success as a Christian is obedience.  There are many things that we can consider after that, but we must never let obedience stray too far from our minds.  




December 10, 2015, 12:00 AM

What's Your Story?


I read a blog this week that I want to share with you. It is about telling your story or sharing your testimony. It makes some good points and I believe it is timely during the holiday season. While everyone is talking about baby Jesus, we have the opportunity to remind them that He grew up and sacrificed himself for them. Sharing your story is an easy and personal way for you to do that. The full blog can be found at http://thomrainer.com/2014/06/challenge-tell-story/

What’s your story?

That question is not an insignificant one. The Bible is filled with people who reached out to others simply by telling their story. Andrew told Peter he had met the Messiah (John 1:40-42), and Philip echoed a similar story to Nathaniel (John 1:43-45). The man born blind told all he could tell after meeting Jesus: “Once I was blind, but now I see” (John 9:24-25). The apostle Paul told his story more than once (Acts 22:1-21, 26:1-23).

Why is our story so important? First, everybody has one. Every follower of Christ has a story to tell that includes sinfulness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Second, nobody needs special training to tell his or her story. Training can be helpful—for example, we can learn how to tell our story clearly and concisely in different circumstances – but we can tell our stories simply because they are ours. Third, our stories are evidences of grace. Some may seem more dramatic, but all are stories of grace-saturated life transformation.

Even the very ordinances Christ gave the church are designed to tell the story. Through believer’s baptism, we illustrate our trust in Christ’s death, our personal death to self, and our belief in resurrection and eternal life. When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we remember what Christ did for us, reflect on and renew our commitment to Him, and look forward to the day when He will come again. Our sharing in these events shows that the story has now become our story; the gospel has become intensely personal and real.

This holiday season, cease every opportunity to a to remind people why Jesus really is the reason for the season for you.  God has saved you in a special and unique way and He wants to use your story to do the same for someone else. 




December 3, 2015, 2:22 PM

Biblical Principles on Forgiveness



The hardest part of forgiveness may be the fact that we do not get to choose what it looks like. Forgiveness release you from the passive role of victim and places you in the active role of extending grace. But, there is still the issue of wanting to feel the satisfaction that comes from enacting justice. 

 

Often times I have played out in my head how forgiving someone will go. I will confront them with the issue that has hurt me and follow it up with letting them know that I forgive them for it. When I play this out in my mind, my forgiveness is always met with immediate repentance and massive efforts to make up for the hurt they have caused. But, for what ever reason, this is rarely how it plays out in real life. 

 

There are many things wrong with this approach to forgiveness, mainly that it is not even forgiveness. Forgiveness that is given with expectations attached is like a gift that is given with expectations attached. That gift is really a burden. That pseudo-forgiveness brings more bitterness rather than freedom. 

 

When Jesus is dying on the cross for our sins, He prays that God the Father would forgive those who were crucifying Him. In the height of their offense, Jesus actively forgives them. Instead of holding them responsible and demanding justice be served Him, Jesus actively forgives them. It is important for us to note that His forgiveness has affect on their offense.  They continue crucify Him. This is perhaps the best picture of true forgiveness that the world has ever seen. 

 

We may never receive the apology or acknowledgment that we desire. The relationship may never be fully restored. You may never feel justified like you deeply desire. But, that is the nature of true forgiveness. Forgiveness places us solely in the hands of God. In forgiveness, we rest in Him as our refuge. In forgiveness, we look to Him for redemption instead of ourselves. In forgiveness, we find satisfaction in the fact that he has justified us instead of a situation. In forgiveness, we allow our offender to taste the goodness of the grace that we have experienced from Jesus. In forgiveness, we experience freedom to worship. 




November 28, 2015, 2:30 PM

Biblical Principles on Forgiveness



I have received a lot of feedback and questions on last week’s sermon. As a preacher, I think that is a good thing. My hope is that I am preaching sermons where people are living life. By that I mean that my desire is to preach and teach in a way that impacts your life in a real and meaningful way. Parts of last week's sermon seemed to do that for many. In a general way, much of the feedback centered around forgiveness. Because of that, I have decided to outline some biblical principles of forgiveness for you here. 

One thing that we must remember is that the forgiveness that we give should be modeled after the forgiveness that we have received from God. With that in mind, here are some principles for what our forgiveness may begin to look like. 

1.) Forgiveness is rooted in the Agape Love of God.  
We often over look this simple but important point. Forgiveness is a choice to show love instead of vengeance.  

2.) Forgiveness is the burden of the victim. Repentance is the burden of the offender. 
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Before you repented of your sins, God provided the means though which you could be forgiven. When we think about forgiveness, we cannot hold their repentance as a prerequisite for our obedience to God. 
3.) Forgiveness requires trusting God.

Romans 12:19-21 - Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Forgiveness requires us to trust God to act as He sees fit in the situation. As God the Father, we must realize that He loves us as His children and He will act. We are called to show the goodwill and love that we have been shown by Him. By doing so, we show that we are children like our Father. 

These are three small points about forgiveness. Next week we will explore a few more.

Let us keep in mind that in a selfish world and a selfish culture, true forgiveness is something that is almost a miracle. It is us trusting God to provide for our best interest instead of taking them into our own hands. It truly is evidence of us giving our life to the Lord. 

 


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