The Weekly Epistle 4/17/24

Hi Living Hope Family,
It was hard to be so many miles away from you during such a difficult time for the church family and particularly not being physically present for Betsy and the family.  I am thankful for the many ways the church stepped up under Pastor Dan’s leadership.  Even though I did try to minister from a distance and stay in the loop of all that was going on, it wasn’t the same. 
Something else that wasn’t the same was worshipping at another church.  I missed my church family and am biased toward the worship at Living Hope.  On one of the Sundays as I was truly receiving food for my soul, and it was a good sermon, my mind wandered about certain points and illustrations I might make around the passage.  It is an occupational hazard. 
The sermon was about finishing well from John 21.  In that passage after Jesus informs Peter of how he will spend his final days on earth and speaks of the way that Peter will die, he commands him to, “follow me.” Peter’s immediate response to that was to look around at one of the other disciples and asks Jesus, “What about him?”  And Jesus in essence says, “Don’t worry about anyone else, just follow me.”
Isn’t that often the case?  We can easily get our eyes on people.  We overly concern ourselves with what others are doing or not doing.  We may not say it out loud, but we think, “What about him?  Why isn’t she serving?”
As I was listening to the preacher make his point that in order to finish well we need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and not on people, my mind went to John Landy. 
In 1960 there was a famous race in Canada between two great runners. The four-minute mile was about to be broken and the world expected John Landy or Roger Banister to do it. John Landy had been leading for most of the race and there was only about two hundred yards to go. They were coming out of the last corner when John Landy looked behind to see where his opponent was placed. At that very moment Roger Banister passed him on the outside while he was looking back on the inside. He lost the race and will go down in history as the runner who looked back. He should have been concerned with running his own race. But he took his eyes off the finish line and looked at his opponent, and that cost him the race.
How many have left the church because their eyes were on people?  How much ground do we lose in running the race because we look at how others are running the race?  Have you found yourself saying, “What about him?” 
Church, let’s be concerned with running our race.  That’s not to say, we don’t have any responsibility to others as they run their race, but we are not to become distracted by others whose role may be different than ours.  We are not to worry about everyone else and what God’s plan may be for them.  Jesus says, “Follow me.” 
I am reminded of the words of Jonathan Edwards, “Resolved: that all men should live for the glory of God. Resolved second: That whether others do or not, I will.”
Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus!  Pastor Brian

The Weekly Epistle 4/10/24

“Good Grief,” Charlie Brown would often say in a moment of exasperation.   Good grief.  It seems to be an oxymoron.   How can grief be good? 

When Paul spoke of not grieving like those who were without hope, he wasn’t against grieving.  He was encouraging the believers in Thessalonica to hang on to hope.  Grieving over the loss of a loved one can coexist with hope that we will see that loved one again. 

Let’s face it, grief messes with how we want life to be.  Grief never feels good! 

Although grief is not pleasant, it is a natural and healthy response to loss and sadness.  It is actually good to grieve rather than push down those feelings of sadness.

Culture tells us to move past this process quickly. Take a few days, weeks perhaps, to grieve, but don’t stay there too long. Grieving can make those around us uncomfortable. Friends sometimes don’t know what to do with our pain. Well-intentioned people can often struggle to find adequate words. 

Yet grief, as painful a season as it is, is a necessary part of our healing. To run from grief is to run from the very thing that can bring healing.  Our grief has a purpose. Grieving is the process God uses to bring us to a place of wholeness.

Grieving can be the most difficult time for people. Trying to balance the feelings of pain and loss from now on with your everyday life. Give yourself space and time, be honest with your emotions, don’t grieve alone, and don’t lose hope.

We do look to that day when our God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (see Revelation 21:1-4). 

Until then, find comfort in the One who is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18. 

My own heart is heavy.  As we go through this process of grief together, don’t lose heart.  I appreciate the honesty of the Psalmist who said, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:28).

Yes, He is! 

Leaning in on Jesus our true Shepherd, Pastor Brian