MPC Weekly Blog / Wednesday Message



              


To keep us encouraged during these difficult times, our pastoral staff is communicating with you regularly.


03-04-2021 - The Present Is Precious


Today's Post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


"The present is very precious; these are the days of salvation; now is the acceptable time.”                        -        The Imitation of Christ

 

I consider the advent of digital books to be a blessing and a curse. I love to read and will often buy a book and not read it for a while and then one day, discover that I have the book on my shelf and pull it out and read it. Digital books have made that process much easier, but really, not as much fun. Now, the process of poking around my bookshelf has become an exercise of scrolling through my phone. Once again, the digital age arrives to homogenize some previously fun and interesting aspect of my life.

 

One book that comes up often when I am scrolling my phone is Thomas A Kempis’ great book of Christian devotion, The Imitation of Christ.  Religious books come and go in my library (and tend to stay and get pushed to the bottom in my digital library) but this book regularly rises to the top where I see it in my digital library so I open it for reading. I love to come back to this book time and time again. Perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional work next to the Bible, it is regarded as one of the great Christian devotional books of all time. While Protestants shy away from the Roman Catholic overtones of the book, there is much for any Christian to glean from it.

 

This great book of prayer and Christian devotion contains many discipleship admonitions that are helpful to me and the one that I quoted above comes to mind as a very significant one. Do you consider that the “present is precious”? Are you the kind of person who considers each moment as a gift? If that is you, do you recognize each moment as an opportunity for God to be present, no matter what it is that you are doing?

 

I think we can all benefit from the advice of the French Christian, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, who wrote in his classic work, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, “There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action.”

 

Do you hear what he is saying here? God gives us each moment in our lives to “present Himself.” Every moment that makes you happy, or inspired, joyful or frustrated, angry or even bored can present some aspect of the truth of God to those who have a heart and ear open to it.

 

So, open your heart and listen. Try to hear or think or feel more of how God is present in your life in each moment. And if you are like me, pick up your phone and scroll through your digital book collection and see what the Lord has to say to you this day.

 

Blessings,

Pat


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02-24-2021 - Tears to Wipe


(Today's Post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


I was moved to tears at the end of the sermon this past Sunday. After preaching a sermon on Revelation 6 that lays out the enemy’s plans, and Revelation 7, which lays out the plans of Christ, I was very moved by the beautiful, loving language spoken about God’s plan for believers at the end of Chapter 7,

 

they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

 

These words capture the Lord’s intentions toward His church. I am hopeful that this moves you as it did me on Sunday morning, as I was preaching. And as you read them, consider that these intentions of God toward the church, the people that He loves, is not only for when we reach heaven or for the end of time, but they apply right now.

 

Did you know that the Bible says that we as the children of God are right now, at this moment, sitting in “heavenly places with Christ”? While this is true, of course, for our eternal state, it is no less true right now. This is the reason why the passage in Revelation moved me so very much on Sunday morning.

 

After coming home last Sunday after the services, I sat in the kitchen and told Liz that I was drained. Not physically tired but emotionally drained. I believe the reason for this is that I feel joined to all of you when I lead a service. And not only all of you, but everyone on our prayer list. And when I look out at all of you or liftup the people on our list in prayer, I feel a bit of the burden that comes with the knowledge that people are hurting. Some are afraid and others are suffering. Some face uncertain futures and others are feeling the pain of friends or family. All difficult circumstances, all painful.

 

Yet I take great hope in the knowledge that our Lord is close to those in pain, and His intention is to do the things written in Revelation. This passage says that the Lord will “shelter” His people with His very presence. He will protect them from the scorching rays of the sun and be a shepherd who will lead them to springs of refreshing water. The imagery here is meant to convey how God’s loving care will cover and protect us, refresh and revive us, even as we “suffer” under the rays of the scorching heat. This, I believe, is a metaphor revealing the grace and love God gives to His people as they hurt.

 

Rarely do I believe a passage from Revelation is not an image or a metaphor, but I do think that way about the last passage above. And you should too. When you are in pain and the tears begin to fall, remember that it is He who catches them and gently and lovingly wipes them from your sad and hurting face.

 

For He is your Father, and He loves you.

 

Blessings,

Pat


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02-17-2021 - City of Man, City of God


(Today's Post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


One of the most important questions that a Christian can and should ponder has to do with the church. What does it mean to be part of the church? Many Protestants would answer this based on how they see their role in their local church. Some might say that they attend on a regular basis and others might answer that they are involved in children’s ministries.  Others might say that they enjoy fellowship or attending a bible study or other event on occasion. Protestant Christians tend to think of the church on a local level and how their church is affecting their lives, their families and their communities.

 

Others think of the church in terms of the denomination that they belong. I believe this is common way for Roman Catholics to think of their church. They tend to have a broader view and will often consider what the Pope is saying on a particular issue or what is happening with their church in Rome or a particular country. While there are certainly exceptions to this, and some Roman Catholics consider their local church involvement, many Catholics that I know think often about their church in the world.

 

Let me challenge you to see the church in a much different way. Try to take a moment and think of the church as a city that has been operating for 2000 years, or even much longer than that. Then try to think of society as a city that has operated since antiquity. The church is the City of God and society is the City of Man.

 

Could it be that these two cities have operated side by side for a very long time and that these cities have conflicting agendas?

 

Jesus has said that his Kingdom is not of this world and since the time of Jesus, Christians have seen themselves as citizens of a different kingdom and even a different city. Thinking this way has a very significant impact on how you see your life. When you think that you are a citizen of the City of God rather than the City of Man, you develop a new and different perspective. You may begin questioning the things that you thought were so very important. You may begin to think more about God’s agenda for the world, for our country, our communities, and families. And once your perspective begins to change, your actions will follow. You will naturally begin to take action to benefit the agenda of the City that you belong. And if you are a believer, your city is the City of God.

 

This Sunday I will be preaching from the Book of Revelation, chapter 6 and 7. Chapter 6 outlines the state of the City of Man and chapter 7 outlines the state of the City of God. And the most important thing about these two chapters is that they show these two cities from God’s perspective. I hope to see you at one of our two services (9am or 11am) as I unpack these two chapters. Perhaps you will get a new perspective on the church. One that will change your way of thinking… and ultimately change what you desire to do with your life.

 

 

Blessings,

 

Pat


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02-03-2021 - A Scene From Heaven


(Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.

Revelation 4:1-2

 

      Many years ago, a friend of mine gave me a book entitled “Beyond Death’s Door,” written by cardiologist Maurice Rawlings. Over the course of many years working in cardiology, Dr. Rawlings was able to recount story after story of people who died in his presence and were brought back to life. In many cases, these patients had incredible stories to tell of what they witnessed after their heart had stopped. Starting from their ability to recount conversations that Dr. Rawlings had with others in the room to one amazing story of a patient who was able to describe the items on the very top of a high cabinet that was in the room. He said that he saw these items after he left his body and was floating above the room near the ceiling. Many of the witnesses spoke of seeing the tunnel and the light and of seeing departed loved ones, and even speaking with God. Since the time of this book, the concept of “NDE’s” or “near death experiences” has exploded in our culture with person after person providing similar accounts, with some being incredibly amazing in the amount of detail.

 

      The idea of an NDE was very new to me when I read Beyond Death’s Door and I was fascinated. As a believer, I would imagine that we all very taken with the thought of what heaven is like. The prophet Isaiah was one of the first in scripture to give an account of a vision that he had of heaven. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet describes seeing the Lord, high and lifted up, with the train of His robe filling the entire temple. Isaiah saw angels and other spiritual creatures that minister before the throne, calling out constantly of God’s holiness and majesty. And the sound of the voices of praise shook the very doorposts and thresholds of the temple as it began to fill with smoke.

 

      Have you ever wondered what it will be like to see heaven? This vision is not as far away as we would like to pretend. Our life is a mere wisp from the point of view of eternity. God’s throne in heaven and the endless images of beauty and glory will fill us with awe and wonder forever. Our life here on earth will seem so very small and short in comparison. This is why it is vital to lift up our eyes and look from a different perspective.

 

      Our culture seems to think that it is a bad thing to be overly “heavenly-minded,” to the point we are no earthly good. I disagree with this idea and believe the opposite is true. I believe it is vital to be heavenly minded if we are to be any earthly good. It is the people who look to heaven that possess an otherworldliness that we need in this age of confusion. We need a vision of something better and most assuredly heaven is that vision.  My sermon this Sunday will cover the vision of heaven that John the Apostle saw in the Book of Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, and it is remarkably similar to the vision of Isaiah, with one notable exception. In John’s vision, there was some distress because they couldn’t find anyone there worthy to open God’s scrolls and reveal God’s plan. So, tune in this Sunday to see if they found anyone who was worthy enough for this task.

 

      Getting back to NDE’s for a minute, I have a close friend who had one. His name is Guy and many of you know him. His story of dying and visiting heaven always holds listeners spellbound. That is why I ask him to tell his story whenever I can. And even though he is shy, he always gives in to me. In the end, somehow he can’t resist but to tell it.

 

      And that is because it is a story and a vision that needs to be told.


Blessings,


Pat


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1-20-2021 - The Journey to Revelation


(Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

                                                                                                             - Revelation 1:3


The Book of Revelation contains the passage above, which promises a blessing to those who read that book, hear it and take it to heart. If this is the case, why is it that few people venture to read the book? There are two main reasons for this.


First, the Book of Revelation is hard to understand as it consists mostly of imagery. While some of the imagery is directly explained as it is being used in the book (see Revelation 20:2 for an example), much of the imagery is not explained but rather left for multiple and varied explanations and interpretations (I’ll get back to that in a minute).


In order to properly understand the imagery used in the Book of Revelation, one must be comfortable using cross-references because the imagery used in the book is often taken directly from the Old Testament, most often from the prophets (Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Zechariah, etc). The picture of the “two witnesses” in Revelation chapter 11, for instance, cannot be properly understood without also referencing the Old Testament prophetic book of the prophet Zechariah, chapter 4. This chapter makes the exact reference as Revelation 11 does to the two witnesses (or “anointed ones”) as being God’s “olive trees”. In this case, Zechariah provides additional insights as to the best way to interpret Revelation 11.


The second reason why the Book of Revelation is not often read is because its interpretation has become a point of contention among believers. The reason for this is that one understanding of the book is very popular today and the people who hold this position sometimes say that their position on Revelation defines orthodoxy. This means that a Christian who does not hold their position is in error in regard to their faith. In this I strongly disagree. There are several methodologies to interpret the Book of Revelation that have been used by orthodox believers throughout history and one method over another should not define whether a Christian is sound in their doctrine or not. Interpretations of the Book of Revelation, as long as they have precedent in orthodox theologies, are part of the in-house, family debate that we Christians have with one another. They do not determine heresy or orthodoxy.


Personally, I find the Book of Revelation to be an endless source of fascination. My particular way of interpreting it takes from more than one of the orthodox interpretations to build a system which sees the book as a view “behind the curtain” of our world to the heavenly one. We get to see events in history as they are seen in heaven and I love that.  I hope to be able to open that aspect up for you over the next several sermons that I do at the church. I would love for you to walk away with a love for the book because it inspires you to see our reality from another perspective – a heavenly one.

So, what about this blessing that awaits people who read the book? I believe this blessing comes because we who read the book get to learn more about Jesus. In the end, the book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ and is both a revelation that He gives as well as one that He is. The book helps us to see Christ more clearly and that is always a blessing.


My own understanding of Revelation has been a journey that I have walked for many years and I invite you on that same journey. It is vital that we seek to walk this road because, as our scripture above says, “the time is near”.

I would even be so bold as to say, the time is now.


Blessings,

Pat

 


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1-15-2021 - Faith-filled Waiting


(Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)

 

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

                                                                          - Psalm 40:1-2

 

King David was a man who had a deep and enduring relationship with the God he loved. And there were times in his life that he led the people of Israel with triumph and shouts of joy and victory. But there were also times were he was pursued by his enemies and also incidents of his own sin and rebellion. David was indeed a man who lived both on the mountain with God and also in the valley.

 

During times like we are experiencing now, how many of us can honestly say that we are "waiting patiently" for God to do something to change our circumstance? Are we "frustrated-filled" or "faith-filled"?

 

Did you know that the faith-filled person is not always the person who is living on the mountain of victory? The faith-filled person can often be the person who is just holding on, in the hope that God will move and rescue them. I believe that many of us might in this place now. And if you are finding yourself in a place like this during these very difficult times, I want to encourage you to engage in some "faith-filled waiting". 

 

The passage above is the first two verses of our Call to Worship this Sunday morning, and as we come together as a church and this Call to Worship can serve as a reminder of who it is that we worship. Remember that He is the God who hears us and cares for us and calls us to His side, even in the most difficult times. As Christmas reminds us, He is near.

 

So let's wait patiently for the Lord and believe that He will deliver us. Let's engage in some Faith-Filled Waiting. 

 

Blessings

Pat



01-07-2021 - Guidance Obtained

Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


     The world is a dangerous place. It always has been but these days we see this very clearly every day. Between pandemics, unprecedented political instability, and rumors of tensions throughout the world, we see very clearly what has always been – that the world is a dangerous place.


     But that does not mean it is a bad place. We need to remember during times like this that the world was created by God, who afterward, said that it was good. And it is good. The same things we loved about the world and about our lives are still there. They haven’t gone away. What is bad now will eventually pass.


    So, what are Christians to do as we wait for these difficult times to pass? The answer is peace. We are called to be a people of peace. And we are called to be a people of peace because our Lord is the Prince of Peace. This is something that I will be speaking about on Sunday as I finish up my sermon series on the names of the divine Son who would be born, as prophesied in Isaiah, chapter 9.


     When people speak of peace, they generally think of it as something external like peace between nations or political factions. But for the believer, peace is something that is internal before it is external. Peace takes many forms and is seen in many ways, but it must start by being personalized. It must start by being at the very center of who we are as believers. We can only live to bring peace if we are people who are peace.


     The good news of this idea is that it easily leads us back to the place we need to be. While external circumstances will rage, we can look to the one who was born the Prince of Peace. And looking to Him makes all the differences. The peace that comes from Him is a peace of the person, not of the circumstance, and it is the kind of peace that He gives us as His followers.


     So, before we hope for peace in our country, before we desire it for the world, we must to seek to live it, to personalize it, to actually be it. It is my prayer that God will give me the words to speak about this on Sunday in a way that helps us all receive this great gift.

My prayer is for ears that hear what the Spirit has to say to us all at this time because it is during times like this that it is only the Spirit that can adequately speak to our circumstances. It is only the Spirit who can speak the peace that we so desperately need.


Blessings,

Pat

 

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12-30-2020 - Guidance Obtained

Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”                                                                                     - Proverbs 1:5

 

      Even in the midst of a crazy pandemic where nothing seems normal, I must admit that it seemed very strange and out of place to “cancel” or “suspend” church services at any point, but that is exactly what we did. I gave it a lot of thought before I approached Session about cancelling the service after Christmas and the one coming up, the Sunday after New Year’s. After much consideration, the decision was made to suspend services for these two Sundays.

 

     The genesis of this decision for me went back to the time shortly after Thanksgiving, where I saw the spread of covid begin to spike.  It soon became apparent that expanded home gatherings with family and friends owned a great part of the responsibility for this spike. It was then that I considered our Sunday after Christmas “sing-along” service.  It suddenly dawned on me that we were potentially inviting a super-spreader event to occur. Imagine a group of people, many coming off expanded holiday gatherings, being invited into a closed off space and then handed songbooks and encouraged to sing out. When I thought about it like that, it seemed a good idea to forego the sing-along service and the service after New Years Day as well, as that holiday will potentially invite expanded social events. I had already taken this step for some meetings that occurred in the church building, so it seemed natural to look at the services.

 

     It is good to live in boldness and not fear. Our church opened for services at the beginning of summer and is has been fully opened for both worship and a full slate of ministries that occur in the facility for many months. We have held worship, housed the homeless, provided food for the community, opened the thrift shop, invited AA/NA to meet and held a remarkable Christmas family event that drew over 200 people. And we did all this while the pandemic raged. No, we are not a fearful people.

 

     But we do endeavor to be wise, and that is a learned thing. Watching how the pandemic spreads and taking sensible action where needed is a good thing and something I believe God led us to do. As the passage above says, we heard, we learned, and we obtained guidance, and this is why we decided to suspend services. There was not pressure from anything or anyone outside, there was only a desire to be wise.

 

     Our church building will open up again because we want to be bold and do as God would want. Services in the building are slated to start again on January 10th and the plan is to open the facility up to various groups that want to meet on January 17th.  This could potentially change based on a covid surge, so watch your email and the MPC website.

  

     As we continue through this very strange time, please pray for the leaders of your church that they would operate out of boldness and a lack of fear but please also pray that we have the courage to make wise decisions when needed.

  

Blessings,

 

Pat


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12-23-2020 - The Simple Story

Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


The Word became flesh! God became human! The invisible became visible! The untouchable became touchable! Eternal life experienced temporal death! The transcendent one descended and drew near! The unlimited became limited! The infinite became finite! The immutable became mutable! The unbreakable became fragile! Spirit became matter! Eternity entered time! The independent became dependent! The almighty became weak! The loved became hated! The exalted was humbled! Glory was subjected to shame! Fame turned into obscurity! From inexpressible joy to tears of unimaginable grief! From a throne to a cross! From ruler to being ruled! From power to weakness!         - Sam Storms

 

     There is no more radical idea in the world of ideas than the Incarnation. Mankind has always had people who espouse the idea that man can become a god (and many even believed it about themselves), but nowhere else does this incredible concept that God became human exist. Some religions have espoused the idea that their founder or leader has divine attributes but nothing where the fullness of God is said to dwell as human. And not an elevated human like someone from the Marvel Universe, but a flesh and blood, born as a baby, hungry and thirsty, tempted and conspired against, able to be injured, capable of dying, human.


     Philosophers and thinkers have always thought Christians to be absurd by holding to such an idea. The Incarnation has been dismissed, ridiculed, doubted and maligned by the best that thinking humanity has to offer and yet it remains. It remains to speak to us all about a God who seems to take risks, one who is willing to experience all that we experience, even the base and lowly things. And to top this off, this radical idea comes down to us as a simple story. A story of a baby, born to paupers, lying in a farm animal feeding trough, hungry and cold. Crying.


     If we had never heard this idea before, if we had not gone to church as children, if we had not been told the story in annual celebrations, if we had not sung about it or heard it recounted by Linus in the Peanuts Christmas Special, we too might believe it to be absurd. And, to top it off and make it more difficult, the idea is handed to us as a simple story. Nothing grandiose – just a simple story that can be told by a cartoon character little boy who still carries his blanket.


     So, what should we, in 2020, do with this simple story?


     The answer is – we tell it.


     This is the story that must be told. No matter how many times it has been told before, it must be told again. It deserves to be told every year because it is this absurd story that changed the world. It is this absurd story that has given hope to millions for the last 2000 years. It is this story that speaks to the human heart at a level of intimacy that nothing else does. It is the absurd story that is true.


     And tell it we will – this Christmas Eve, on the church front lawn, from 2-4pm, with live animals, people in costumes and a plastic doll in a manger. You see, the thing is, the telling of the story is meant to be told by simple people in simple ways. The One who was born that day wouldn’t have it any other way. 


Merry Christmas,


Pat


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12-16-2020 - Snow Is Coming

Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate


      I don’t know about you, but I have an Amazon Alexa in my house. It is a very interesting little device but, to be technically correct, Alexa is not actually the device that you see sitting on the table. That device is called an “Echo”. Alexa, to be precise, is a ”virtual assistant AI (artificial intelligence) technology”. Alexa is the engine of artificial intelligence that can listen and answer your questions. It is dependent on many diverse technologies back in the Amazon home office that instantly listen to your commands, break them down into sophisticated searching queries to search a vast data storehouse using sophisticated logic algorithms to find the best answer, convert it to language using a language synthesizer, and speak it back to you with human sounding voice. And this is done as quickly as a real person answering a question.


     So, this morning I see a flashing light on the top of my Amazon Echo and I said, “Alexa, notifications”. If you have one of these devices, you know that Alexa is the “wake word” for Alexa to start listening (although Liz firmly believes Jeff Bezos is listing to everything going on in our house – and honestly if he is, he must be both bored and slightly amused) and “notifications” would be the question. When I said “notifications”, Alexa promptly let me know that there was a severe winter warning in effect and that snow was coming.


     I heard a few people talking yesterday about the snow coming and it was all very negative. One person said “Boy, 2020 just won’t give up with the pain it inflicts”.  We all know that snow can be very inconvenient, even a hassle.  But did you know that snow in scripture is almost always speaking of something very good, even glorious? Snow often is used as a metaphor of either God’s appearance or our salvation. Consider the following passages:


Matthew 28:3 – “His appearance (Jesus) was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.


Daniel 7:9 - “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.”


Isaiah 1:18 - “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

Psalm 51:7 – “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”


     So, let’s accept the fact that the snow is coming and when it does, try to use it as a moment to look at its wonder and beauty and contemplate the amazing love of God who, dressed in white like snow, cleanses us from our sin, so we also might be clothed in brilliance.


     And if you have an Alexa device, resist the temptation to ask it if Jeff Bezos is listening. She will deny it.



Blessings,


Pat


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12-09-2020 - Are You Retrospective?

Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate.


In my morning devotional time, I often enjoy reading from the great Puritan prayer devotional book entitled “Valley of Vision, a Collection of Puritan Prayers”.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a daily devotions book. Honestly, the Puritans have been given a bad rap. They are often thought of as kill-joys who spend their days looking for someone having fun so they can put a stop to it. In reality, the Puritans were men and women driven by a simple but fervent and intense devotion to Christ. And it was this devotion that helped them to understand more about themselves.


Consider today’s entry for an example. Entitled “Retrospect and Prospect”, the writer is reflecting on how he came to know Christ as his Savior, and it is these thoughts that caused him to think on his own state before he knew Christ. He writes the following:


“My soul melts when I think of thy days of old

    with me,

  when a poor worthless creature

    without wisdom to direct or strength

      to help myself

  was laid under the happy necessity

    of living upon thee and finding thy

      consolations large.”

 

This is what I love about the Puritan writers. They constantly reflect on after state prior to knowing Christ and how that compares to their state now. In the case of today’s writer, his heart “melts” when he considers this state as poor, without wisdom and strength to help himself, but he was “laid” under the happiness of living for Christ. And it is in this state that he finds that his Savior provides “consolations large” (he was encouraged).


What do you find yourself thinking about every day? Are you consumed with thoughts about yourself? Or maybe about those you love? Maybe your financial status and how Covid has affected that? Or maybe about our church that we all love? Honestly, it is understandable that you might dwell on these things because that is what people do. But perhaps you would consider another way?


If you don’t have a daily devotional practice already, start one today. I recommend praying at least twice a day, using the Psalms as a guide, as well as incorporating other prayers that you know or have memorized. In your daily prayer, don’t spend all of our time asking God to do something, but spend most of the time praising and thanking Him for all He does for you. And then try to do something you might not have tried to do before; get retrospective. Think on where you were before you knew the graciousness of the One you have come to love. Consider how he has touched your life and changed you. Spend a few minutes thinking about some of your favorite passages of scripture – look them up if you have to. Or alternatively, read from one of the gospels and sit and just think about the passage you have read.


If you don’t think you have the time, I am here to tell you that you do. Take 5 or 10 minutes at each prayer time and you soon find that you want to expand it. Maybe get up a few minutes early to accommodate the time.


Or maybe just stop thinking so much about yourself and everything in your life. This is hard to do at first, but you can get the hang of it and you’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll get back if you do just that. And enjoy your time pondering the One who came as a baby and now reigns as a King.


For He knows your name. If that doesn’t excite you, then nothing will.


Blessings,

Pat

 

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11-04-2020 - The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

 

     I am composing this the day after the election with no clear winner in sight.  It might take another couple of days or a couple of weeks. This is an important election, but we need not buy into ‘it’s the end of the world’ if so and so gets elected. We seem to forget that we have an election every four years. Yes, there are real-world implications, but we have our trust in a much higher power. Since we live in submission to another King, who is not bound by geography, time, and party platforms and is the creator and sustainer of the universe, we can be at peace.  I have learned even in times like this to be ambivalent about the political process and presidential elections. 

 

     Churches are not here to serve nationalism or socialism but the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be hesitant in our allegiance to any human group and be critical even as we follow and join a particular group.  All actions related to moral causes does not equate to obedience to Christ. Action can be a substitute for dependence on Christ.  In “The Political Meaning of Christianity,” Glenn Tinder states that “Where the action is carried on under an illusion of innocence sin is apt to be particularly pretentious and unrestrained.”  Tinder adds, “Action can be an element of spirituality when it is divested of pride.” It is helpful to learn to wait.

 

     Waiting is an unpopular posture, but one scripture refers to often. "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). Tinder states, “The men and women of Israel and indirectly human beings everywhere, were called upon to turn their lives into a concentrated act of waiting for a community that would be created not by political leaders but by God.” We cannot put our ultimate trust in our worldly leaders. Tinder also adds that “There is perhaps not a single example in our time of a determined effort to produce immediate and sweeping change that has not ended in tyranny.”  People cannot build and live in a good order here on earth, not even an inward and spiritual order. Tinder is correct in stating that if a Christian ideology is drawn up, God would have tacitly to be denied since faith is reduced to inalterable dogma. 

 

     Our posture is to be independent and engaged, free from fanaticism and cynicism. The media and often leaders press us for our allegiance at the sacrifice of truth. They prefer that we not ask hard questions. Godly leadership challenges us to think and to be held accountable. The kind of leadership moves us to consider Christ and not press us to be loyal to their leadership.

 

     We need patience as we wait for an election result, but we need much more patience to wait for the coming of the Lord, who will ultimately bring us to the abiding community.  We have no lasting city in this world.  Today, let's focus on waiting for God to fill us with his presence so that many others can see Christ and enter His kingdom. We can then perform the role of peacemaker in this divided culture by considering the needs and concerns of those with whom we might disagree.

 

Blessings,

Robert


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This week's post is written by Patrick Hanly, Pastoral Associate.


10-28-2020 - What Can We Do?


Well, I think I have about had it; I’m not sure that I can make it to November 3rd and what will follow. It seems that every time I check my Youtube feed, all I can see is disastrous situations, from somewhere in this country, being fed to me. Like you, I feel that I have not seen anything as bad as this in my entire life. And do we have any reason to believe that things will get better after November 3rd? We don’t. I think we can safely assume that things will get worse and that is a gloomy outlook.


So what, as believers, are we to do? We can certainly pray, and I know that a great many of us are doing that every day. So, for all of you who are praying, let’s commit together to pray this upcoming Monday night, between the hours of 8pm to 9pm, for our country and this upcoming election. Let’s go to God in repentance and ask him for His will and His guidance. Let’s pour out our hearts and ask for mercy and an end to the violence and division in our country. If it were not for a recent uptick in Covid cases and the multiple shutdowns of the school, I would have organized a prayer meeting at the church for this Monday evening. But since we cannot do that, a commitment to pray together is the next best thing. Please join me in that this Monday evening.


But what else can we do? Vote? Sure, we can do that but, without God’s divine intervention, I am not sure things are going to get better, no matter who wins. But it is still important to vote since there are major things in play in this election. So please, educate yourself and vote.


Can we try to convince others of our political position? Can we post on Facebook and rant in anger about our politics? I am not sure about you, but I am thoroughly exhausted from reading political posts. As a matter of fact, I would like to call for a moratorium on political Facebook posts. Perhaps you will all join me in a Facebook cease-fire? And, if you read a biased political post in your feed, not matter if you agree or not, write something back that is up-lifting. Phrases like “I’m praying for our country” or “Jesus is Lord no matter who is in charge” or “Change has to start with me – create in me a clean heart, O God” can go a long way to lift someone’s spirit out of the Facebook fracus.


And there is one more thing we can do. Laugh.


What? What do you mean by that? How can you find anything about the current situation in our country as being in any way funny?


Well, I don’t. Nothing about this situation is funny and I am not saying we should laugh about the current state of politics in our country. I am saying that we can find other things to laugh about. In my case, it was John Candy. When I saw my Youtube feed filled this morning with more posts about riots, violence, and political corruption, I decided to search for movie clips from my favorite comedian. Now, certainly John Candy could be bawdy, and I am not recommending his bawdy scenes, but he could also be so very funny. So, I found a few clips and laughed out loud and I felt better.


The Bible clearly recommends laughter and a glad heart. Proverbs 17:22 says that “a merry heart (or laughter) is good medicine but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” and Proverbs 15:13 says that “a glad heart makes a happy face, a broken heart crushes the spirit”. It is vitally important that we, as God’s church, provide a different face to politics of the day. We should be diligent in our prayer, patient with our tongue (or posts) and exuberant in our joy.


Please ask the Lord to make you a prayer warrior and pray daily for God’s presence in the purity of the Gospel and the Spirit’s power to be poured out on us. Pray for an end to the violence and for revival in our country. Go to the Lord in repentance and ask for the change to start with you. Ask for patience and a loving heart in these difficult days to share with all you meet. And find a reason to have joy. Find something to dwell on that makes you merry. And look for a reason to laugh.


Man, I miss John Candy.


Blessings,

Pat


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10-15-2020 - Your Life as a Prayer


     I am a big fan of Keith Green’s music. While he died tragically in a plane crash in 1982, his music continues to have an impact on my life. I especially love the four albums that he released while he was alive, and out of those four albums, I believe my favorite is the album entitled “No Compromise”.


     The front cover of this album is pictured with a cartoon drawing of a man standing while all the others around him are prostrate on the ground. The people around him are on their faces because the local magistrate is being carried past them on a gold throne (the setting is an ancient city). One of the soldiers following the magistrate is pointing at the man standing with angry and malice filled intentions on his face. The standing man did not bend the knee to the magistrate and now will pay a price.



     Keith Green was anything but subtle. The idea in this picture and the many songs on the album is that we will be called to stand in the darkness around us. This is something that as Christians who hold to the true gospel will not be able to escape. While everything around us is demanding that we compromise to “get along”, we will potentially be brought to a place where compromise can no longer be done as it would result in sin and a possible betrayal of our Lord. A casual look at our current society leads me to believe this confrontation may not be far away. This is a difficult thing to consider, but it is important that we prepare our lives for what may happen in the future. By God’s mercy, we may escape this, but that is not for sure. Christians in other lands are certainly facing this very thing today.


     The second song on the album provides a hint on how we can begin to prepare. The song is called “Make My Life a Prayer to You” and the lyrics begin this way,


Make my life a prayer to You,

I want to do what you want me to.

No empty words and no white lies,

No token prayers, no compromise.


     I want to ask you to take a minute and think about your daily prayers. Are they mostly filled with requests for God to heal someone or help someone or change a situation in our life or the life of someone you love? While requests of this kind are certainly legitimate, and we are called to pray in this manner, these prayers are not to be our entire prayer time. They should not even to constitute the majority of our time in prayer. A review of the first few lines of the Lord’s prayer gives us an indication of how we should pray.


     Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name – First our prayers must include (and even begin) with a time of praise and adoration to God. 


     Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – this next part of the prayer is critical and constitutes our desire to see God’s will be done in our lives. Here we are asking that our lives conform to God’s will and our desires are motivated by the expansion of His kingdom.


     After these lines come time to pray for our needs, forgiveness, and guidance. While these are important, we must not forget the first lines in the Lord’s prayer to rush to the latter part. Our daily prayer must have, as a main focus, expressions of our praise to God for who He is followed by our desire to conform to His will in obedience here on earth. In fact, I believe we should center on this to the point where these things become who we are, not just what we pray. We must be a people whose very lives exist to praise God and live in obedience to him.


     So, make our lives a prayer to you, O God.

With no empty words, no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.


Blessings,


Pat


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10-08-2020 - Grain of Truth


         Criticism.  You have received it, and you have probably given it. In a divided, abrasive culture, everybody is a critic.  Criticism can play an essential role in the development of a person or society. Unfortunately, when there is a lack of substantive conversation, criticism is either blindly embraced, or wholly ignored.  What should be the Believer’s response?

 

            When we turn to the Bible, we find that history's most potent criticism was not toward another human being, but God.  This seed, planted by the evil one, has led to all other destructive complaints.  Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan to believe two things:

 

1.    God lied to them.  You will not die if you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3:4)


2.    God is holding out on them – keeping them from being like him. (Genesis 3:5)

 

Looking at the scriptures to figure out how to deal with criticism, I discover the real problem is my criticism of God. 

 

     People can often question how God runs the world.  Jim Carry, in “Bruce Almighty,” plays a character who questions God. He then gets to be God since God (Morgan Freeman) needed a break.  Though some could rightly argue the film's anthropomorphic view (God seen as more human than divine) of God, there is a practical application.  We do not realize who we are talking to when we complain to God. 

 

     We can blame God for not healing, allowing evil to exist, and not giving me a better life.  Even a godly person, who endures inexplicable suffering like Job, could be tempted to demand God to give him an answer. Doubting God is at the core of all sin.  You indulge because you suspect God is not enough.  You lie because you doubt that it will not go well for you if you tell the truth. You get angry because God is not at the core of your identity – He is not your peace. 

 

      Much of the book of Job is stating Job’s (supposed) friends’ terrible advice and complaints. God has the final word in the very end.  In summary, God is saying you don’t understand who you are talking to:  I am God, you are not. This is God not merely asserting his authority, but a merciful and sobering admonishment of Job.  Why cry out why is this happening and become a critic of God?  Or if God knew all of this, why did He allow it? The truth is, if you knew what God knew, you would understand. But we don't. We are left with trusting Him.  There are many reasons to trust Him.

 

      There are many practical Biblical ways to deal with criticism that have not been mentioned.  It is sobering to consider that my main problem is my criticism of the Perfect One.  He deserves praise, not a critique.


Blessings,

Pastor Robert

 



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