The Weekly Epistle 9/20/23


As you reflect upon the recent passing of long-time Living Hope members Brad Wallace and Ella Eshelman, the words of the psalmist may come to mind. 

                                     “Precious in the sight of the LORD                                                                                       Is the death of His godly ones.”                                                                                                     Psalm 116:15

These oft-cited words have comforted grieving believers for millennia. Yet, as I read these words out loud to Marilyn Jorgensen (who is now in hospice care) earlier this week, I was dumbstruck by their oddity. Death—the chief consequence of sin—is precious in the sight of the Lord. How can this be? 

As I reflected upon the passage, it occurred to me that the paradox presented to us by the psalmist is ultimately resolved in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus took on the sting of sin and death so that we may experience the blessing and joy of resurrection. For Brad, Ella, and all those who have died in faith (Hebrews 11:13), physical death functions as a portal—a final step of faith—into the ultimate resurrection. Perhaps this is what the psalmist meant when he said, “I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalms 116:9) 

With that said, we ought to avoid a flippant view of physical death that merely celebrates a life well lived. Death, even the death of a believer, ought to be mourned because the value of our resurrection directly correlates to the cost paid at the cross. When we feel the weight of Jesus’ death, acknowledging it for the horror it was, our appreciation for the resurrection of our loved ones will undoubtedly increase. By contrast, when we reduce the passing of a believer to a celebration, we cheapen the Gospel. No, we do not grieve like those who have no hope, but we do grieve. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) Moreover, we ought to grieve because in doing so, we honor the memory of our loved ones—just how important they were to us and how greatly they will be missed—and we honor the great sacrifice by which their ultimate resurrection was secured. 

When a good friend of mine unexpectedly passed away, I was greatly comforted by a brother in Christ who exhorted me to “Mourn hard. Mourn well.” Living Hope, I now exhort you. As we wait for the fullness of our hope to be realized, Mourn hard. Mourn well. 

Grace and Peace,                                                                                                                                                 
Pastor Dan 

The Weekly Epistle 9/13/23

Hi Living Hope,

Back on April 1st (notice the date), the Laconia Daily Sun posted an article about bike week. It claimed that since this was the 100th year anniversary of bike week it was going to be extended to 100 days. I was all worked up. I didn’t put it together that this article was run on April 1st. The paper mentioned a race where “you push your motorcycle 100 miles away from Laconia”. Also, there would be a stunt jump six school buses long. 

I did the math in my head that 100 days would bring bike week to mid-September. I thought, “How to ruin the summer for locals.” Being the quick thinker that I am, it suddenly dawned on me that something wasn’t right. There was another article about expanding the downtown parking garage to 30 floors and building a state-of-the-art bridge across the broads of Lake Winnipesauke- the “Golden Gate of the Northeast”. 

You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Now I get it! The name of the Sun’s special edition was dubbed, “The Laconia Nightly Moon.” They got me. I was fooled on April 1st.

I had to laugh. That was funny. That I, and others, fell for it makes it funnier. What isn’t so funny is when scammers make money off someone being fooled. I knew an elderly woman in NY where I was pastoring at the time, who was fooled by someone posing as her grandson and in need of some money. As a caring grandmother she turned over a large sum of money to this jerk! How low can you get to target a loving grandmother!!! 

As followers of Jesus, we look to give others the benefit of the doubt. In the love chapter, it mentions that “love always trusts” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Personally, I have struggled to love in this way as I tend to be suspicious rather than trusting. At times, that has served me and others well, to not be naïve when it comes to discerning a person’s character as being less than truthful. But it can also hinder my ability to love as I ought. 

Is it possible to be too trusting? Can you think of occasions when the Christian community has been duped because of their desire to be trusting? I have seen it. Well-intentioned believers falling for some teaching wrapped in a Christian label. That is no laughing matter. 

Scripture pulls no punches in addressing false teachers. The Bible gives numerous warnings to be on guard against deception. For example, Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). 

Church, be vigilant! Be watchful! One such example that may seem harmless is the recent email some of you have received that appears to be from me. The email created a sense of urgency and secrecy. As I said on Sunday, as your pastor, I would never ask for something in secret especially through a vague email. If you receive a message like that from me or someone else in the church, exercise wisdom and caution. 

Don’t believe everything you read and hear. Check the source. There are wolves in sheep clothing. This may come through false teachers, but it can also come through the world of technology. I long to protect you from such harm as one of your shepherds! 

Serving the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ, Pastor Brian 

The Weekly Epistle 9/6/23

Hello church!
The sermon hit hard this week. Pastor Brian’s use of Elisabeth Elliot’s quote was particularly jarring. 
“Faith is not inferred from the happy way things work. It is an act of will, a choice…” 
Truth be known, I do not have the gift of faith. Yes, I have faith that God is sovereign—faith that he will indeed accomplish what he sets out to do—I just don’t have much faith that his sovereignty will keep me from places I would rather not go. I would not have chosen to struggle with adult literacy. I would not have chosen cancer at 22 or a brain tumor at 36. I would not have chosen the many ministerial struggles I have encountered as one of your pastors. Even with hindsight being what it is, I still would not choose those things. But, to paraphrase Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ours is not to reason why.” It is incumbent upon me as a child of God to entrust myself to my Sovereign Father. He knows the best way forward, and it is the best way forward, even if it does lead through the Valley of the Shadow. I needed to be reminded of that this past week. I needed to hear a sermon that hit hard. 
But what about you?
Do sermons ever hit hard? 
I can think of no greater evidence of a “seared conscience” (1 Timothy 4:2) than a soul that is never moved to conviction while listening to a sermon. Yes, a good sermon should always comfort us with the hope of the Gospel, but it should also challenge us. For a sermon that is all comfort, and no challenge is wholly inadequate to present us with the comfort offered through the Gospel—it can only offer counterfeit comfort. It’s a good thing Pastor Brian doesn’t preach those sorts of sermons here. It’s a good thing he only preaches good sermons.
With that said, a seared conscience is a tricky thing. A seared conscience has a way of filtering out all the conviction of a good sermon. A seared conscience has a way of identifying shadowy comforts in each point. In other words, a seared conscience has a way of only hearing what it wants to hear, only seeing what it wants to see. 
When was the last time a sermon hit hard for you? When was the last time conviction pierced your ears whilst sitting in the pew? It’s not unchristianly to struggle with sin (sin, this side of glory is just reality). It’s unchristianly to not feel convicted. As Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Embrace the conviction. Find real Gospel comfort. 
Pastor Dan