Thursday, March 19, 2020

In This Season

In This Season

Some Pastoral Thoughts in this “Season of Concern”
Dear Friends,
Here we are in the middle of something that is much bigger than us. Here we are in an event that we never expected to be part of. Yet at the same time, we do not even know, if this corona-virus will even affect us locally or individually. Where do we look? What do we concern ourselves with, as we both face and live through this uncertain and unknown situation? Of course, we need to be wise and prudent in applying the guidelines from health officials and yet, we also need to guard ourselves from being consumed with the danger to our health and well-being by becoming overwhelmed with anxiousness or worry.
First of all, we need to release our anxieties to our Savior and Shepherd. We do this by praying as the Apostle Paul advised, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 8:12). We must trust in Christ and cast our concerns and anxieties on Him as we trust in Him knowing that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Be prayerful and instead of spending time worrying, give the time to memorizing Scripture, so that those promises can be a fortress for your mind to find a place to find refuge and strength.
Secondly, in these times when things are so serious, we need to be thoughtful, safe and careful while at the same time resisting any impulses to panic. When we panic, we become foolish in our decisions. Instead, we need to carefully consider things, not being quick to believe everything we feel or sense but to trust in God’s Word, follow wise advice from reputable sources and seek out sensible friends. Then we need to consider what steps are appropriate in each situation and in each day and plan to do those things (Proverbs 14:16). In considering our responses and being purposeful in our actions, we will be wise, we will find prudence, knowledge and discretion (Proverbs 8:12).
Finally, we need to fix our gaze on Jesus and encourage those around us to do the same. He is the one unchanging thing upon which we can find strength. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and thus our gaze should remain upon Him. We have His secure and eternal promise, to put our trust in. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me” (John 14:1). At the same time, we need to encourage each other with the encouragement that comes from trusting in our Lord. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up …” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Individually and together, we must steady our gaze upon our Lord. Our faith must always and continually be fixed on Christ. We must gaze upon Him and trust in the care, guidance and power, He brings to us every day as we walk with Him in faith. With our gaze fixed on Christ, our faith remains fixed on Him, no matter what the struggle, danger or fear we may encounter in the moment, in the day or in the season we might find ourselves in. In bleakness, we look for God’s provision and sufficiency. In fear and danger, we look for God’s strength and rescue. In what seems overwhelming, we look for God’s mighty hand. In the impossible, we look for the possibilities of God’s presence. In the waiting, we look for God’s wisdom. In the unknowing, we look for God’s knowledge. In the hard moments, we look for God’s grace. In the shattering, we look for God’s mending. In the busy, we look for God’s calming. In the noisy, we look for God’s quieting. Our gaze needs to fixed on Christ alone and all that comes from God because we know His love is steadfastly fixed upon us and His love endures forever. When our focus is on Christ, then He becomes your strength. His grace is always sufficient because His love is so extravagantly wrapped around us in all of our days (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Here is the incredible truth, Jesus Christ, is the Author of our faith, sustains us as we persevere through all things and will meet us to be our eternal King when we finish the race of life. We can know and trust that He will carry us through every moment, every day and every season. All we have to do is trust in Him!
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV).
(Take time to memorize this Life Verse and let it be strength to you and a place of refuge for your soul.)
A little prayer for the day … “Oh Lord, steady my gaze in the bleakness, steady my gaze in danger and fear, steady my gaze in disappointment, steady my gaze in heartache and doubt, steady my gaze upon You, and You alone. Oh Lord, steady my gaze upon You, in everything I face. Steady my gaze upon You, that I may see only Your love, care, guidance, and provision. Thank you for being with me, in all that I face today, tomorrow or in the future. Lift up my heart, whenever it is troubled. In Your Name, Jesus. Amen.”
Pastor Steve
Antelope Hills Christian Church, Canby, MN

Monday, April 3, 2017

Who is He?

Who is He?
Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together. (Revelation 3:20, CEV)

Who is He who is standing at the door of your heart?  Is it He, the Jesus that wants to be your Savior?  Will you ask Him to be your Lord and Savior? Will you call on Him to save you?  Will you obey Him and be baptized in His name so you can put on His righteousness? Will you let Him in?

Who is He who is waiting at the door of your heart?  Is it He, the Christ who wants to give you the riches of grace that will that will satisfy your soul? He does not give the riches of the earth that will fade away but the eternal, indescribable riches of heaven which through the wealth of His grace will save your life and sustain you until you come into His presence for eternity? Will you let Him in?

Who is He who is longing to provide at the door of your heart? Is it He, the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you and in that sacrificing death forgave every sin you will ever commit, that your eyes might see the truth, rest in His endless provision and be set free now and forever more? Will you let Him in?

Who is He who is listening at the door of your heart?  Is it He, Jesus Christ the Lord, the healer of every damage, every heartache and every disease? Will you let Him carry all your diseases, all your brokenness and lift all your burdens?  He tells us to come to Him with all that is heavy and overwhelming and He will stay with us in imitate fellowship . Will you let Him in?

Who is He who is beckoning to come in at the door of your heart? It is He, the King of Kings who rose from the dead to destroy the fences, the walls, the towers, the castles, the armies of the enemy who has you convinced that you are hopeless and defeated? Jesus the Eternal and Everlasting King of King who gives life for eternity! Will you let Him in?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

For all Seasons

A blank canvas is colored and filled with strokes and directional shadings by an artist’s loving hand desperately trying to capture the essence of the baby Jesus asleep in the manger nestled in the center of his painted interpretation of the scene of a miraculous birth in a stable.  A writer carefully crafts descriptive phrases and words, intently and with purpose … trying to invoke the deep meanings and significant realities of God coming in the Flesh to bring favor, grace, and salvation to a sinful world.

A young child looks affectionately at the tiny baby in a “Nativity” on a small table delighting in all the charm of the story and the characters but lacking a full appreciation what a Savior is. An elderly gentleman nearby yearns for the phone to ring … for anyone to remember him in this season of remembering.

Across the city, a waitress collects her tips at the end of her shift wondering why in the season of generosity, her meager earnings are coming up shorter than the average day at the diner. Just outside of town a rancher beds down his cattle with fresh straw in his decaying old barn and smiles at the recollection that a place of animals was chosen for the Christmas “Birthday of the King.”

In a gleaming tower of steel and glass in a far off urban landscape, a very successful self-made man who has made his way to the top of being highly successful, wonders why he feels so unsatisfied with all he has amassed. A few miles away along an eroding ravine in a shack of rusted tin and twisted boards, a family shares a bag of decaying oranges … delighted at their unexpected find in the city dump and talking of provision and hope because they have a living “King” born on this day who knows their names.

An emotionally broken couple sits contemplating the severing of a relationship that they once believed God had put together lost midst the uncertainty of any real hope. Pain, suffering, conflicts both large and small and trivial and majorly significant seem to daunt the promise of the season and yet these aspects of life have always been present on the earth.

In a jail cell, hopelessly confining and limited, a young man’s face brightens as reads of a “liberty for the captive” from an ancient passage in an unfamiliar Bible, as he realizes a spiritual release can come to his heart regardless of the bleakness of his surroundings.  Just a few miles away on a foreboding street in a dark car, a young woman considers where the “Christmas Star” can be found, so she might find some possible brightness for a path out of the overpowering darkness she is sensing and feeling in her soul.

The Christmas season is filled with countless life scenarios, too numerous to possibly list: those of hopelessness and hope, discouragement and promise, losing and giving, sin and forgiveness, hurt and love, discord and peace. The Christmas season is a time of contrasts as it brings forth a myriad of feelings forgotten and remembered, repressed and expressed, fractured by circumstance and those bursting forth with promise. In all realms, in all stories and places, the Savior comes for more than a season as He brings forgiveness, redemption, peace, joy and life.

Even as Christmas seasons come and go … the Jesus who came as a baby and became the Savior of the world, never forsakes His giving to us.  Jesus Christ came in the season of Christmas but what He gives is not seasonal in any way. He gives far more than any and all of seasons of all time can contain.  More than can be captured in thought, words or representations. More than can be recognized, appreciated or even understood.  Jesus Christ redeems, heals and restores all the moments in all the seasons from all their brokenness, pain, discouragement, frustration, heartache, suffering and an endless array of all that would come against us throughout our days on the earth.

The hope, promise, love, peace and joy that God bestowed by His favor through the gift of His Son was never meant to be found in the characters in the Christmas story, the place, the star, the day, the situations, the timing, the conditions or even in the season. All that God longs to give to the world by His loving favor was and is always to be found in the Son.

God’s full favor comes to us, as we become His children through His extravagant love being poured into the faith relationship we have with Jesus Christ the Son. Through Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of all sin and blessed throughout all the days and seasons of our lifetime, eventually coming into eternal life. 

The gift of a Savior is for far more than any and all of the Christmas seasons … whether past, present or yet to come. Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, who came so long ago, still comes to any and all people in every season who call upon His name.  Jesus Christ is more than a baby born in a manger, more than a seasonal event, more than a reason for the season … for He is the Savior of all people, all seasons and for all time.  

Blessings to All

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Thankful Psalm of Knowing the Good Shepherd

Ever humbled in gratitude and thanksgiving for knowing the Good Shepherd!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23, KJ21)

The Lord is the Shepherd of my life, He is always good! He satisfies every want before me, fulfilling all yearnings, even those I do not realize I have and need.

He guides my heart to the peaceful meadows of His presence; He leads me to the quieting comfort the nourishing stream of His steadfast love. Over and over he restores my very soul.  He leads me on the pathways that change me into someone who reflects the glory of His righteousness by His faithfulness.

Even though I struggle and stumble when circumstances and pressures darken some of the seasons of my life with aching pain and deep despair, I will not cower and lose faith … because You, O Lord, as my Shepherd are ever with me.  O Lord, you direct me ever closer to the truth by the rod of your perfect wisdom and stand ready with your mighty hand upon your staff to ever protect me.

There is no end to the extravagant banquet of your goodness that You, O Lord put before me as a feast so abundant that my very enemies fall back in great astonishment. You anoint my head with the overflowing oil of your favor and your blessings saturate my daily living.

Your goodness fills every moment of my living and your merciful grace freely flows in and through every day and every season until I come into the eternal home I will share with you forever. Thank you, O Lord for being the Good Shepherd of my life. Thank you! 

Paraphrase - S. R. Maas -2016