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Monday, June 20, 2016

In God We Trust

The Word of God urges us to trust God.  It is better to trust God than anything or anyone else.  Do you trust God above all else?  You might think so, but take a moment to reflect on this crucial question more deeply.  Listen to the Psalmist and then read this blog as you ask yourself, "Do I trust God more than anything else?"

Psalm 118:1-9 (Key verse: 8)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Let all Israel repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let Aaron’s descendants, the priests, repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”
In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
    and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
    I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in people.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

            We are so very blessed to live in America, a country where we are free and have so few worries.  We are relatively safe.  We have the opportunity to earn a living and take care of ourselves and our family.  This is in contrast to Christians who lived in NT times, who struggled just to get by in a world very hostile to Christianity and where it was already hard to live (no medicine, no insurance, no grocery stores or refrigerators, let alone electricity or cell phones or air conditioning or other modern conveniences).
            Some would say: with all we have and all we have accomplished, we have outgrown our need for God.  We in the church would never say such, but I think subconsciously many believe it. Certainly, many in the church live as if we do not need God. We can count on ourselves, our prosperity, and all the available resources at our disposal in our world.  We live as if we have less need of God than our ancestors. We have so many more things we can depend upon.
            And yet, Scripture urges us: It is better to trust in the Lord than anything else. It is better because:
  • It gives us peace of mind. We all need assurance that life is dependable. And there is nothing more dependable than God.
  • Depending on God helps us to avoid trouble, for His precepts are true and eternal, and His faithful love endure forever.
  • This morning, I especially want you to understand trusting God (above all else) is a matter of eternal significance. 

The Trustworthiness of God
            First let me say why you can trust God.  You can trust God because God is all powerful.  He created the vast expanse of the universe.  There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy.  It’s hard to understand the magnitude of that number.  So let me put it in perspective.  Suppose you counted all the stars—counting one star every second.  It would take you over 3,000 years to count them all if you counted 1 star every second.  And that's just in our galaxy!  There are 100 billion galaxies in our universe—each containing about 100 billion stars.  And that's just what we know about; there could be more!  God simply spoke and all this came to be.  And God not only created it, He keeps it all working. We cannot even fathom the power of God.
            And, God is all knowing.  One might think with so much to oversee, God would forget about us, but hallelujah!  God does not forget!  Psalm 118:5 – “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me...”  Jesus said, "Not a single sparrow dies and God doesn't know about it." And he said, "God even knows how many hairs you have on your head." (Matthew 10:29-30).   God knows everything.  He knows everything about you, even your secret thoughts.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  But all of this—being all-powerful and all-knowing would not guarantee we can trust God if it weren't for one more crucial factor.
            God loves us completely.  John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).  It is not that we loved God, but that he first loved us. While we were still sinners [ie. had totally ignored God, turned our backs on Him, rebelled against Him, and forgotten Him], Christ came and died for us (Romans 5:8).  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  So we have this God of unlimited power, who knows everything and everything about us, and who loves us completely and unconditionally.  If we can trust anything, we can trust God. Psalm 118:1 – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.
            But some would ask, does God really exist?  That is more question than I have time to address fully in this blog, but I should at least touch upon the idea. Though most reading this probably accept the existence of God, there may be some who question or who might question in the future.
            First, I would say, that every culture that has ever lived, from all eras and all parts of the world, have all had some concept of God. Some have imagined an ultimate being very similar to the Christian idea of God. Others have conceived of multiple gods or spirits. Though there are variances in people's understanding of the Divine Power, the fact is:  all have perceived there is a God (or gods); and this is strong evidence that our collective human consciousness is aware that God does indeed exist. It would seem there is more out there than just what meets the eye.
            Second, I would add what has been most convincing for me. Look at the complexity of our world.  Look how different humanity is from all other animals. We are more than just animals who accidentally evolved to be more intelligent and self-aware than other animals.  Consider how all the world functions together as an intricate system. If the planet were not tilted on its axis at just the right angle, just the right distance from the sun, spinning at just the right speed, none of this life would be possible.  Consider how complex the workings of the electron, protons, and neutrons that make up the atoms and molecules of matter.  Consider the intricate functioning of just one single cell organism in our world; and then consider the infinite complexities of the human body—far more sophisticated than the functioning of the most complex machine.  Is this not powerful evidence of some supremely intelligent Creator who designed it all?
            If you found a watch lying in the sand on the beach, wouldn't you assume someone had dropped it?  Even though all the elements necessary to make the watch are present in the ocean, it would be ludicrous to believe all those elements accidentally came together to form the watch all by themselves.  To say this world and life is only an accident (not under the intelligent direction of a divine Higher Power) would be crazier than saying an auto parts store exploded and all the parts fell to the earth randomly, in just the right order so as to create a working car.  And not just one, but many—a Ford, a Toyota, a Chevy, a Chrysler, a Volkswagen, a BMW, a Honda...  So I think there is very strong evidence that a supremely powerful God exists.

For what can we trust God?
            So we can trust God.  But for what is it that we can trust Him?  We can trust God to supply all our needs.  We don’t have to worry (about life, what we will eat, what we will wear, where we will live, how we will survive).  God will take care of His people. 
            I don’t mean that He will give you anything you want.  When I was 5-years-old, I saw a movie about Godzilla--this giant monster as tall as buildings who could breath fire and was invincible.  Maybe it apealed to me because a 5-year-old feels pretty insignificant and powerless.  Anyway, we went to church and the preacher said you could pray for anything and if you believed it, God would give it to you (I'm sure I must have misunderstood the preacher, but that's what I heard). So on the way home from church, I got this idea to pray for a giant robot Godzilla in which I could drive around and rule the world.  I prayed and believed that giant robot would be in my front yard when I got home.  It wasn't, of course. Thank God.
            God will give you what you need.  We should work—with the help of the Holy Spirit—to get our desires under control.  It is a spiritual exercise (that leads to a great virtue) to turn our desires away from wanting more and more, and better and better stuff and learning to be satisfied with what God gives us.  What a blessing it is to be satisfied with what God provides and desiring nothing more!
             We can trust God’s forgiveness.  Through Christ, all our sins are forgiven.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23); yet praise be to God, we don’t have to carry that guilt and shame. Because of Christ, we are forgiven.  We do not have to tremble at the mention of God’s name—at least, not because we fear retribution.  For God holds nothing against those whom Christ has forgiven.  Have you recognized your need of forgiveness?  Have you cried out to Jesus for forgiveness?  Then He has forgiven you and there is nothing within you to anger God.  Your sins have been taken to the edge of the universe—13.7 billion light-years away—and flung over the edge into nothingness.
            And for all who trust in the Lord, He grants eternal life.  This is a promise from the God of the Universe—the all-powerful, all-knowing, who is Perfect Love.   “This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life.” (John 6:40, The Message)  But there is more!
            We can trust God to love us.  Didn’t you hear the Psalmist’s refrain?  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His Faithful love endures forever!"
            God’s love for us does not depend on our goodness, our talent, our achievements, our possessions, our power or influence.
            God loves us when no one else does.
            God loves us when everyone else does—but God loves us for the right reasons.
            God loves us when we are completely unloveable.
            God’s love endures forever.  He will never stop.  He will never leave us or forsake.
            Romans 8:38-39 – “…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
            There is but one more thing I must mention (there are many more things I could mention, but for the sake of time, just one I will mention).  We can trust God’s justice.  We can trust God to right all the wrongs of our world. We don’t have to hold hatred in our hearts.  We don’t have to hold a grudge against others.  We don’t have to seek vengeance.  We should seek to do good and help others and right the wrongs we see—when it is within our power and when God calls us to do so—but we don’t have to worry that evil will go unpunished or that the wicked will get away with sin.  God knows all and has the wisdom to deal with evil in the right way at the right time.  We can trust God to meet out justice perfectly at the perfect time and in the perfect way.

Wrongly placed Trust
           So you see, we can trust God.  We should trust God.  We should trust God above all else.  And yet the Word of God warns us: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. (Psalm 118:8)
            If the Word of God needs to urge us to trust God, it must mean people tend to trust other things more.  And that is what we find in our lives.  We are worldly people.  We put our trust in the things of this world more than we trust God. 
            We depend upon our money to buy our way out of trouble or to insure against it.  We depend upon our job to provide the money we need.
            We trust our country's military might to protect us.  We live in the most powerful country in the world.  Our military is second to none.  We are thankful for soldiers who serve to protect us.  We are proud of the incredibly advance weapons of war we possess. Surely, nothing could come against us.  Yet all this is nothing and could fail in a moment.  Our true help comes from the Lord, not our military.
            We trust our politicians to fix the problems of our nation.  “Ha!” You laugh.  “Who could possibly trust our politicians in Washington?”  Then why are we putting so much stock in them?  Why are we so worried about who will be the next president?  Why are we so concerned everything is going to fall apart if Trump gets elected?  Or if Hillary gets elected?  Are we trusting in the president when we should be trusting in God?
            Others trust in drugs or alcohol.  We need something to soothe the pain of this world—to take the edge off our worries.  Yet these substances dull us to life until we are little more than zombies walking through the world missing out on real life.  Eventually, the drugs and alcohol will kill our bodies.  There is a better way.  Trust in the Lord.  He will never let you down.  He never runs out.  His high never wears off.  His peace is more than a sedative—it is real peace, a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that can carry you through any storm because He is the maker of the storm and perfectly capable of carrying you through it or banishing the storm into thin air.
            Some trust in their religion.  This is a very tricky thing, for it almost seems like you are trusting in God.  But when you trust in religion, you are trusting in your actions to guarantee your well-being.  It is thinking, “I will be fine, because I am a good person.”  It is thinking, “God will take care of me, because I have done what He said (or done the right things in life).”  The subtle difference is you are really trusting in yourself, not God.  And that is religion, not faith in Christ.
            We cannot and should not trust anything above God.  And this is crucial.  It has eternal significance—which I will explain in just a moment.

            But first, I would say, it should not be assumed that you cannot trust anything in this world.  It would be a sorry life to go around mistrusting every person and every thing.  That is no life to live and not God’s intention.  What is needed is for our trust to be prioritized correctly.
            This is a matter of eternal significance.  It is faith in God that saves us.  The Truth is: if you trust anything above God, you are on dangerous ground.  God will not be your backup.  He is Lord and will accept nothing less than first place in your life.  You must put your whole trust in Him through Christ.  If you are trusting in your job more than you are trusting in God, watch out!  God may take away that job to teach you to trust in Him instead.  But even more significantly. if you have been trusting something else ahead of God, you are not really trusting God—He is merely a backup plan.  God must be first.  He deserves to be first.  He will be first or He will not be in your life.
            So what are you to do today?  I say, listen to what the Word of God says.  Examine your heart.  Is God really first?  Are you depending on Him above all else?  Have you been depending on the wrong things for your happiness? Your security? Your comfort? Your peace of mind?  Your salvation?  For love?  For Hope? For wisdom?  For eternity?
            Then repent and heed the words of the Psalmist:  "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”

Monday, June 13, 2016

Almost a Christian

The following message was adapted from John Wesley's sermon from 1741 titled "The Almost Christian."  I pray it challenges you to consider the very important question:  Are you a Christian or merely almost a Christian.

Acts 26:1-29
1Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”
So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!
“As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. 13 About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
15 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. 17 And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles 18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’
19 “And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. 20 I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. 21 Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. 22 But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”
24 Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”
25 But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. 26 And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”
28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”
29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

            We live in a “Christian” society (or at least we think we do).  Polls show that 71% of Americans claim to be Christian.  However, more and more, people are acting in very unchristian ways.  Even our government is making decisions many feel are unchristian.  We fear our nation is slipping into unchristian ways.
            Paul and the other Apostles lived at a time when Christians were such a small part of the population they seemed insignificant.  It is estimated that less than 1% of the population at that time was Christian.  There were only 40 Christian churches in the whole world in 100 AD!  This tiny group of Christians were spread out across a Mediterranean world filled with debauchery, corruption, and bent on destroying the fledgling Christian faith.  Compared to those beleaguered Christians, you would think we have nothing to complain about!
            Perhaps, the main reason we fear for our country is because it has been so “Christian” in the past.  We remember fondly a time when churches were better attended, people were more honest, and society better reflected the beliefs and values we consider “Christian.”  And now, as we see those values eroding, we feel our nation will soon be “Christian” no longer.
            But then, we need to consider if we truly live in a Christian society now.  Have we ever really lived in a Christian nation?  Does the term “Christian nation” even mean what we think it means?  What does it really mean to be a Christian?  And most important of all, we need to ask ourselves:  Am I really a Christian?  These are the questions we will explore in this message.

The Characteristics of an Almost Christian
            There are many good, kind people in our world who are not Christians.  Sometimes we admire them and mistake them for Christians.  So, the first thing we must do if we are going to define what is a real Christian, is to note the characteristics of someone who is almost a Christian. Then, we will be able to go one step further and describe someone who is completely a Christian.
            Someone who is almost a Christian is honest.  They tell the truth and do not lie.  In fact, they will speak the truth even when it is hard.  They will be honest, even if it goes against the grain of public opinion.  They will tell you what you need to hear even if you don't want to hear it or if it upsets you, because someone who is almost a Christian is truthful.  Yet it is more than just words.
            Someone who is almost a Christian also has integrity.  In other words, they are the same person when no one is watching that they are when everyone is watching.  Someone who is almost a Christian acts the same way on Sunday morning at church that they do on Saturday night.  They have integrity.
            Someone who is almost a Christian--who is standing right at the threshold of being a true Christian--is kind and helpful.  They are the kind of person who always encourages others.  They send cards to people who are sick or in mourning. Someone who is almost a Christian visits people when they are in the hospital.  They are so thoughtful and always know the right thing to do to cheer people up.  Someone who is almost a Christian faithfully prays for others, but there is more.
            Someone who is almost a Christian--who is knocking at the very door--will be very religious.  They refrain from things the Bible forbids.  You would never hear someone who is almost a Christian spewing profanity.  Their talk will always be wholesome and good.  They would never commit adultery or steal.  They would never go around town gossiping about others behind their back because they are almost a Christian.  However, these people do more than avoid bad things.
            The "almost Christian" does many good things.  They go to church regularly.  They volunteer at church and in the community.  They might coach their son's baseball team or teach Sunday school.  They do good every chance they get--even giving to charity, both within the church and without.
            Someone who is almost a Christian--just millimeters away--is always clean and well put together.  They exercise regularly and take care of their body.  Their home is always clean; you can stop by anytime unannounced and you will never find dirty dishes in the sink; there will never be dust on their furniture.  Their vehicle is always clean and tidy; it never smells like the lunch they ate in their car yesterday, because they are almost a Christian!
            These people--who are almost Christian--are some of the best citizens you will find.  They always do their civic duty.  They are proud of their country and community.  They always want to do good and be good.  One more thing:  someone who is almost a Christian prays every morning and night, and before all their meals, and many times throughout the day.  They are always praying to God, because they are almost a Christian.  

            Some of you will say:  "Is it even possible that someone could have all these fine attributes and still only be almost a Christian?"           
            Yes!  John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement, who wrote the sermon that inspired this blog, was just such a man.  He said this of himself--that he was at one time only an almost Christian.  Listen to some of the things Wesley did before he became a complete Christian:
Wesley grew up the son of a preacher.  He learned the Bible and godly living from his saintly mother.  He went to seminary and became an Anglican priest.  He traveled from England to Georgia to be a missionary to the Indians.  John Wesley strove with all his might to do good and follow God’s will as a Christian.  Yet it was only after he had already done all these things that Welsey fnally realized he was only an almost Christian.  In 1738 while listening to someone read Martin Luther's preface to the book of Romans, something amazing happened.  Wesley said, "while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."  Wesley realized that all the good things he had done, all those things that made him almost a Christian, had done absolutely nothing at all to save him.  Only Christ could save him and so Wesley surrendered everything to Jesus and became a real Christian for the first time at the age of 35-years-old.

A Complete Christian
            Now that we have described someone who is almost a Christian, we can define what makes you a complete Christian.  First, Jesus said you must "Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength…"  God must be absolutely first in your life, no exceptions.  
            Many will say, "Of course!  I do love God."  No, I don't think you understand the gravity of this.  The love of God must engross all your heart, all your desires, all your passions until you are utterly dead to the world; until your pride is obliterated.  Your love for God must take absolutely first place in your life--before your wife, before your kids, before your career, before your hobbies, before all your worldly desires.  You must forsake all else for the love of God--Jesus said this is the greatest commandment.
            And the second greatest commandment--if you are to be fully a Christian (and not only almost a Christian)--is to "Love your neighbor as yourself..."  And in case you're wondering, Jesus said everyone is your neighbor.  It's not just the person who lives next door, it is also the person who lives on the other side of town or the "wrong" side of town.  It is also the illegal immigrants from Mexico who keep crossing our borders and threatening our economy.  Our neighbors are also homosexuals and others with lifestyles with which we don't agree.  Our neighbors are people in other countries who do not share our same values.  These are our neighbors and we are to love them.  The person who shot and killed all those people at the nightclub in Orlando is also our neighbor; so are terrorists who are bent on destroying our way of life.  All these are our neighbors and we are to love them as we love ourselves.
            You say, "Those aren't our neighbors!  Those are our enemies!"  Jesus also said, "Love your enemies.  Pray for those who curse you."  So if you are to be fully Christian, you also must love your enemies--both your own enemies and the enemies of God.  And your love must be such that you would even lay down your life for them, as did Christ.  Lest you forget what this Christian love is, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us, "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."
            You say, "Who can live like that? It's impossible."  You are right.  It is impossible.  No human can love like this.  It would be like asking a camel to walk through the eye of a needle.  So there is one more thing you must have if you are to be fully and completely and wholly a Christian: faith.  
            Humanly speaking, it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  With Christ we are more than conquerors.  With Christ, we are called sons of God.  Christ said we would do even greater things than he did!  (How is that possible?  How can we do more than Jesus?  He was God! Yet, Jesus said we would!)  Through Christ, we have overcome the world, death, sin (not just the guilt of sin, but also the power of it!).  Through faith in Christ, we are saved!
            But don't be deceived!  Faith that doesn't bring repentance, right living, love and good works, is not real faith; it is a dead and useless faith, the same faith demons have.  You say, "I believe!  I believe what the Apostles' Creed says:  I believing Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried, and that he rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty!"  Good, but don't you know there are demons burning in hell right now who believe those very same things?  That is not saving faith.  It is dead and useless.
            Faith that saves, is trusting in Jesus so that you surrender everything to him.  It is trusting him enough to follow his teachings and do what he says, right now.  Saving faith is putting the love of God and your neighbor above everything else.  It makes you throw away all your pride, all your reliance on your own merits--knowing that all your good deeds are nothing and have no ability to make you good, let alone save you.  That kind of faith changes you.  It changes everything.  
            John Wesley said:  "Whosoever has this faith which ‘purifies the heart’, by the power of God who dwelleth therein, from pride, anger, desire, ‘from all unrighteousness’, ‘from all filthiness of flesh and spirit’; which fills it with love stronger than death both to God and to all mankind—love that doth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict; whosoever has this faith, thus ‘working by love’, is not almost only, but altogether a Christian."

So we must get to the most important question today, which is not are we living in a Christian country, but am I a real Christian?  
I think if we are honest, we will have to admit that not many of us even rise to the level of someone who is almost a Christian. How then can so many go on believing they are completely a Christian. And if not, then what are you to do? Should you go on the same as you were before you read this? Should you go on pretending to others that you are a real Christian or deceiving yourself until the day you are horrified to find yourself before God’s throne and finally realize that you were not a Christian your whole life or maybe almost a Christian, but that you have failed to be wholly and completely and fully a real Christian.
Humble yourself.  Repent.  Let Christ save you and have faith in him alone to help you live as a True Christian from this day forward.

Monday, June 6, 2016

5 Ways to Know What's Going On at Church this Summer

Stay Connected at Church this Summer.
Summertime is fun time!  Kids are out of school.  It's a time for trips and swimming and vacations and outdoor activities.  It's also a time when people lose touch with what's going on at church.  I see it happen every summer.  Someone says, "How come I didn't know Mr. Brown died?  No one told me."  Or they say, "Why didn't I know about our church VBS?"

Summertime is a fun time, but it's also a crazy time at church.  Our routines are all mixed up, people miss church on Sundays because they're on vacation (so they don't get a bulletin or hear the Sunday announcements).  All this can lead to a breakdown in communication and frustration for people who want to stay connected to the life of the church over the summer.  It is just as frustrating for church leaders who want you to be connected.

Here are 5 Easy Ways to Keep Up with What's Happening at Your Church: 

1.  Come to church.
The very best way to stay connected is to come to church on Sunday mornings.  It will feed your soul and it will also keep you informed.  Consider this: if you miss just one Sunday, you might have to go two full weeks without hearing important news from the church.  If you miss two in a row, you're just plain lost! (Not really, but you are going to have a serious problem staying informed about stuff at church.)  So come to church as much as you can.  Resist the temptation to be lazy and skip a Sunday.  I understand you might need to miss church if you are on vacation, but be sure you attend if you are in town.  And if you must miss a Sunday, the following steps become even more crucial to knowing what is happening at church.  So pay attention!

2.  Read Your Church Emails.
Let me say that again, READ YOUR CHURCH EMAILS.  During the summer months, Pleasant Grove will email a copy of our Sunday bulletin every Monday morning.  We will also send periodic updates about prayer requests, announcements, and other important information as needed.  But none of these will do you any good if you don't read your church emails.  So DON'T SKIP YOUR CHURCH EMAILS!  READ THEM!!!  I often hear people confess they didn't read an email the church sent (or that they just glanced at it without really paying much attention).  That's not going to help you. READ YOUR EMAILS or you will only have yourself to blame when you don't know what's going on.

3.  Check Our Church Facebook Page -
This is the church's most interactive, up-to-date, information source on the internet.  We post prayer requests, announcements, and other important news here regularly.  Furthermore, you can interact by responding to our posts, asking questions, or posting news of your own to share with your church family.  Facebook is a valuable tool at our church.

4.  The Old Fashioned Ways 
I understand that not everyone uses email or Facebook.  Although these tools will enhance your ability to keep up with what is happening at church, you can survive without them.  However, if you don't utilize email or Facebook, you need to be especially proactive about seeking information you might have missed.  Call the church office and ask the secretary.  Call someone who was at church Sunday and get an update.  I would especially encourage you to keep in touch with your Sunday school teachers, youth minister, and children's minster.  These leaders are more likely to have the information you need to know about church activities.  Sometimes the old ways are the best ways, but you have to work harder at them.

5.  Stop by the Church Office - Monday - Thursday, 8:00-3:00
The church office is staffed by our wonderful church secretary, Angela Stack.  She is the central relay for almost all essential church information.  Stop by and see Angela sometime during the week and she can help you catch up on what you missed.  She can also help you share information with others.  The church secretary can answer many of your questions or at least point you to the right person.

Stay Connected this Summer!
We need your help to keep everyone informed and connect at church this summer.  Please do your best to keep up with important information and we will do our best to share it with you during the fun, crazy summer months.