The Weekly Epistle 2/8/23

Hi Living Hope,
Someone put it this way, “Love at first sight is easy to understand.  It’s when 2 people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle.”
 
Well, my wife and I have been looking at each other for 40 years (and add five more years of dating prior to that).  Yeah, that’s a long time. 
 
Know what?  God has been looking at you for years.  He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly. You see, there is nothing you can do to make God love you more.  There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.  He has never stopped loving you.  He never will.  
 
What are some matters you might feel are powerful enough to drive a wedge between you and God?  Paul gives a sample list of things that might be thought to come between us and Christ’s love in Romans 8.  Paul asks the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (8:35).  Then he looks around for an answer.  He mentions seven possibilities.  Seven things he thought of that could come between us and Christ’s love- Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword.  
 
What might you come up with that you feel can separate you from His love?  Whatever you come up with, believer, the answer is nothing! Not failures, problems, conflicts, regrets, losses.  Nothing!  Not even my own inability to love Him as I should.  Our confidence is not in our love for Him, which is so fickle and faltering, but in His love for us.  It is the perseverance of God with the saints.  If our certainty in our walk with the Lord rests in our love for Him, we are all in trouble.  As C.S. Lewis put it, “On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.” 
 
We desperately need to hear these words today.  We are not promised that suffering will never touch us, but that it will never separate us from His love.  There are those times when we are in such pain; times when we are miserable and empty of all energy and desire that all we can do is let God love us. 
 
So, as you begin your day, you can start out with this promise, “God loves me.”  As you go through the day, you can stand on this truth, “God loves me.”  And whatever may come up against me tomorrow or this week, it does not have the power, no matter how powerful it may seem, to cut me off from His love or even interfere with His love in any way.  And not only will I make it through this trial, challenge, misery, nastiness of someone else, God will even turn it into a triumph. 
 
If that is true, then why don’t I more often risk it all for Him?  Why do I hold back?  Why would I?  Why not risk speaking up for Him?  Why not risk complete obedience to Him?  Why not radically live for Him?  Why not go all out in my love for others?  Why not?  I am secure in His love.  
 
Church, nothing can separate you from His love!
 
With love, Pastor Brian

The Weekly Epistle 2/1/23

Hi Living Hope,
God does not forgive excuses!  It is true that there are times when certain situations warrant some explanation for our wrongdoing.  It might be helpful to know the factors at play to clarify what happened, but our tendency often is to turn that explanation into something excusable. 
 
A while back, I came across these explanations for accidents that were submitted to insurance companies.  Here are a few:
I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident.
As I reached an intersection, a hedge sprang up, obscuring my vision.
I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.
The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.
The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.

 
Have any of your confessions to others sounded more like an explanation of what happened rather than ownership of your wrong?  Is your “confession” more about getting the other person to understand or do you really want forgiveness? 
 
Consider the euphemisms we use for our wrong. “I could have been more kind,” is a softer way of saying, “I lost control and took my anger out on you.”  Or, “I misspoke,” rather than say, “I gossiped,” or “I lied.” 
 
I recently read through Psalm 73, which is a Psalm of Asaph.  As Asaph looked around, he was deeply troubled by the wicked getting away with their wickedness and even worse, they were prospering.  Everything seemed to be going in their favor.  It could even appear that they were being blessed.  This made no sense to Asaph.  While being honest with God as to how troubling this was, he didn’t use any of it as an excuse. 
 
Asaph described his perspective as “My feet had almost slipped.”  He confesses that “I envied the arrogant.”  He describes his thought process as “senseless and ignorant” (verse 22).  Asaph knew that his perspective was off and limited by what his eyes could see.  Asaph knew that the struggle within needed an adjustment.  He needed to get his eyes off of people and find his strength in the Lord.  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (verse 26). 
 
What a confession!  No excuses.  He didn’t cry out, “If people didn’t act so wickedly, I wouldn’t act this way.”  Making any excuse for your poor decision?  Justifying a sinful response because of what you have had to go through?  Hiding behind an explanation for your behavior?  Have you added an extenuating circumstance to the end of your confession that probably began with the word, “but,” or the phrase, “I was just…” (tired, hungry, fed-up, so hurt, etc). 
 
What excuse do you need to lay aside?  It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
 
Blessings, Pastor Brian

Looking Forward

Sermon Direction

A Love Song that Hits a Sour Note

Isaiah 5:1-7

Link to This Sunday Worship Service

 

GLO Team

On Friday, February 10th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm, Andy Whitman will be giving a presentation about his missions work in the Dominican Republic.  Pizza will be served.  The snow date for this event will be the next Friday, February 17th.  If possible, please sign up on the sheet in the back of the church so that the Global Missions Team can have an estimate of how much pizza to purchase, but last-minute walk-ins are welcome!  

Discovery Class

A four-week discovery class will begin on March 5th at 9:00 AM held in the fellowship hall. This class is for those who want to learn more about who we are as a church.  If you desire to become a member of the church, this class is required for membership.

March Madness

This is a 3 on 3 co-ed adult, basketball tournament (ages 18 and up) on March 25, 2023. How this will work is that an attender from Living Hope will recruit two other people from outside the church to create a team of three.  Please sign up in the back when you have your team of three.  This event only works if you invite two others and form your team of three.

Cancellation Procedure for Sunday Mornings

In the event of bad weather that would potentially impact services, the following will be taken into consideration: the current weather in Laconia, timing of the weather event, and whether roads, walkways, parking areas will be cleared.  A decision will be made by 7:30 am to cancel one or both of our services.  Living Hope Lakeport will notify of cancellation using the following: WMUR TV*, Church website news feed www.laconiachurch.com, Email (weekly epistle list), and Living Hope Lakeport private and public Facebook pages. *(If 1st service is cancelled, it will say “No Early Services”, if both services cancelled, it will say “No Sunday Services” on WMUR)