The Weekly Epistle 6/19/24

Hi Living Hope Family,
 
When it comes to families, we don’t choose our brothers and sisters, we inherit them.  That is true in the church family as well.  I don’t get to choose my brothers and sisters in Christ at Living Hope and neither do you.  It is God who arranges the parts of the body, just as he determines them to be.  God has brought us together to serve His purposes in the Lakes Region.  
 
I am thankful you are here.  It is no accident that you are part of this church family.  You have a significant contribution to make.  The church needs you!  Not to fill positions, but to carry out His purposes for us as a church.
 
Ephesians 2:10 is a verse I “feel badly for” because it follows verses 8-9.  Ephesians 2:8-9 are familiar verses, memorized, and they powerfully speak to our salvation in Christ alone by faith alone.  Then there is verse 10.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
 
Let me make some observations about this verse.  First of all, it says we ARE God’s workmanship.  Not “we were” or “we might be” but we are.  It is in the present tense.  God is continuously at work in our lives.  We are God’s masterpiece.
 
Secondly, notice that it says, “created in Christ Jesus.”  We are His new creations.  What we are now is not what we once were, but we have been made new in Christ.  
 
Thirdly, this one verse speaks to a meaningful purpose we now have as God’s new creations.  We have been created in Christ Jesus “to do good works.”  We have a purpose.  When God saved us by His grace, He invites us to join Him in the work He is doing.  We get to work with the Master.  
 
One last observation is that this purpose He has for us is not an afterthought.  For it says, “which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  In advance!  God has something in mind for us to do.  Of course, the question is, “what is it?  What are the good works He has in mind for me?”  
 
That sounds stressful!  It feels like the pressure is on to figure out God’s purpose for our lives.  But we must remember the opening words of Ephesians 2:10. We are God’s workmanship.  God is doing the shaping.  God is the Potter, and we are the clay.  The pressure is off!  We can relax in knowing that God is in the process of shaping you.  God has an intention for you.  
 
As we walk with Christ being a part of what God is doing in the moment, we can trust that He is doing the shaping of our lives.  You are a piece of art.  Art is an expression of the inner being of the artist.  You are an expression of the Divine Artist, God Himself!  Not only, you, but all your brothers and sisters in Christ.  
 
That means, when I look at you, I can see that God is turning you into a beautiful, magnificent masterpiece.  I don’t just see what I like about you now, but I see the great things God wants to do in you.  Church, we partner with God in the development of the splendor of each masterpiece, each Christian.  God is bringing each of his new creations into that place of being a glorious work of art!  
 
One of His works of art, Pastor Brian

The Weekly Epistle 6/12/24

Hi Living Hope,
The forgetfulness of God. Does God forget? Does God forget our sins? Is it correct to say that God forgives and forgets and that we too should forgive and forget others’ sins? 

You know the old story of the wife who said to her pastor, “Every time my husband and I get into an argument he gets historical.” 

“You mean hysterical,” the pastor replied.
“No I mean historical for he reminds me of everything I have done wrong in the past.” 

God is not like that. He doesn’t get “historical” on us when we sin or as we make our way through life. When the Bible speaks of God not remembering our sins, it is not saying that God forgets what we have done and that He has some kind of amnesia when it comes to our sin. 

God knows everything! He knows everything past, present and future. God cannot “forget” as we might think of forgetting. God’s not remembering means that God will never call our sins to mind. It means that He will not call them to mind in a way that is harmful or destructive to us. God chooses not to remember them by not holding those sins against us. 

As David rejoices over the forgiveness of God, he expresses it this way in a Psalm. He says, “Blessed (or happy) is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed (happy) is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against him, and in whose spirit is no deceit” (See Psalm 32). 

Do you see what that is saying? God is not in the business of continuing to remind us of past sins. And he doesn’t want us to live in that place of reminding ourselves of our sins and failures. God does not remember us the same way we remember us. Psalm 25:7 says, “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.” 

God promises to remember our sins no more in Isaiah 43:25 and Jeremiah 31:34. Micah, the prophet, says in Micah 7:19, “That God will hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” I love Corrie Ten Boom’s commentary on that verse. She said, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. Then God places a sign out there that says, ‘No fishing allowed!’” 

All too often we go fishing for those sins and failures in our lives. But God does not go fishing for our sins to then throw them in our face or to manipulate our behavior or to shame us. It is a gracious and conscious choice on His part to never think about our moral failures. 

In the same way, even when we remember someone else’s sin, we can make a choice to not hold that sin against them. We aren’t capable of forgetting it. And to remember it doesn’t mean that we mustn’t have really forgiven the person. No! Just each time that sin we have forgiven is remembered, we can choose not to reflect on it, ponder it, analyze it, or bring it up to that person or to someone else. In this way, only, can we forgive and forget! 

Our hope is not in a God who forgets, but in a God who forgives!

 Forgiven and loving it, Pastor Brian 

The Weekly Epistle 6/5/24

Hi Living Hope,
A teacher asked her class of first graders the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” One little first grade girl answered, “Tired.” Know that feeling? I believe it was Flip Wilson who said, “If I had my whole life to live over again. I don’t think I’d have the strength.” Or as Samuel Butler put it, “Life is one long process of getting tired.” 

In a culture that worships productivity and busyness, rest is seriously downplayed. Staying busy doesn’t only describe the “workaholic.” It depicts the ones who run frantically from activity to activity. In Christian circles, we wear, “Busy” as a badge of honor. When asked, “How are you doing?” We answer, “Busy.” We can keep our kids busy playing a school sport, then AAU, then travel league and even a town rec league after that. Perhaps this is why 70% of kids burnout in a sport by the age of 14. But the point isn’t about participation in sports or some other extracurricular activity. 

The issue is how tired we are as a society. Is there rest to be found? This is tourism season. This is the time when many will flee to the coast or to the mountains or to the lakes with the hope that a change in scenery will calm their frayed nerves. Yet many return home weary, deflated, exhausted, and wondering how the rest they longed for has escaped them once again. 

The prophet Isaiah stated that, “Even youths grow tried and weary and young men stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:30). So, the problem isn’t merely age. The ones we think of as never running out of energy (youths and young people), they at some point grow weary and tired. Even the energizer bunny will need his batteries replaced. 

What is it that we all need? Where can we go when we are tired and weary? Isaiah gives us the answer. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Only those who hope, or better translated “wait upon the Lord,” experience renewal. The only condition for receiving divine strength is waiting on the Lord for it. 

It is in God’s waiting room we can find strength. I was in a waiting room recently. Do you know what I noticed? People seem crabbier in the waiting room. It is all over their faces. Perhaps it was on my face as well. I don’t like to wait (ok, I said it). Waiting feels like a total disruption to my day. I have people to see and places to go. Who has time to wait? 

Waiting doesn’t always mean inactivity or passive resignation. It suggests we recognize our need for Him. It requires an admission of our own limitations and weaknesses. It reminds us of our dependence on Him to run the world and care for our problems. It puts into perspective our own self-importance. 

I was forced to slow down recently and, frankly, it drove me nuts. But it was right where God wanted me. It was there that God could renew my strength. The word picture that Isaiah uses is one of exchange. It is to replace our worn-out strength with new strength, divine strength. It is in our waiting that we can experience something supernatural. It is drinking from the living water that only Christ provides. It is when I am at my weakest that I can experience His grace that never runs dry. It is when I can admit my tiredness, then I am ready for the touch of God’s power in my life that causes me not only to survive but thrive; and to soar like wings on an eagle (see Isaiah 40:28-31). 

I wonder, “How often do I miss what God wants to do in me because I simply cannot wait?”

 Blessings, Pastor Brian