LIFEWISE ACADEMY

As of August 1st, about 150 people from the area have signed up in support of establishing a LifeWise Academy ministry in Perrysburg Schools. While this is enough to get things moving, we still need many more to sign up in support.

You may ask, “Why are more names needed?” A simple answer is this: having more names shows there is greater interest in this program being established in our schools. Currently, a Steering Committee is being put together here in Perrysburg to begin the process of establishing this ministry. Part of what is needed is to show the school administration that there is wide support for LifeWise Academy. Wouldn’t it be great to have 500, or maybe 1000 names of people to show evidence of community support?

Let me encourage you, if have not already done so, to sign up on the “interest list” to have LifeWise Academy begin in 2023 in our schools. Let’s do our part to help make this a reality by signing the list and encouraging others to do so as well!

Take a moment to check out these LifeWise Academy ministry videos:

LifeWise Academy, This Is Our Future

New Albany LifeWise Academy 

Christian’s Story 

Let’s be a part of changing the children, families, schools, and the future of Perrysburg for the sake of the gospel!

Walking with you,

Pastor Brian

THOUGHTS ON THE JOURNEY OF LIFE

It is the last day of May 2022. I have had a lot to reflect on recently. As most of you know, my father passed away on May 20th. It was the day after my mother’s birthday. One of my father’s goals in the past couple of years was “to reach the age of 80 and 60 years of marriage”. Well, the Lord granted him those goals for both he and my mother.

A couple of days ago my mother called and shared some of her thoughts concerning the memorial service for my father. She thought of some folks that she wanted to include in the service and also expressed the desire for simplicity. She then asked me if I would “give the talk”.  You know, the message. I was honored that mom would ask me. I was hoping to be asked. But with many in the family involved in Christian ministry, she had more than one choice.

In the past couple of years while reminiscing with my parents, my mother shared with me the details of my birth. I was probably told the story in the past, but the details had faded from my memory. When my mother was ready to deliver me, there were unexpected complications. My life was in jeopardy. In a decisive moment, the doctor had to change the plan and I was delivered cesarean. The unexpected in life called for a decision that saved my life.

Back in February when I was in Florida with my parents, my father shared with me the title of his funeral message. He didn’t have it written out or even outlined, but I knew what he wanted. Afterall, we had MANY conversations over the years.

Looking back, it seemed every conversation included sharing the ‘unanticipated or unexpected’ events of our lives. It included the joy of the often unexpected success of the Red Sox, the unplanned crisis in ministry or the country, and unexpected difficult happenings in the lives of others. Each of these conversations included a fair amount of emotion. With the Red Sox, four World Series titles in the past 18 years brought great joy! In the other 14 years, our conversations centered around the unexpected that contributed to their lack of success.

When it came to talking about the country or ministry, there were times of encouragement. We talked about what God was doing. At the same time, we talked about the challenges facing the world and the church. Family members and friends often faced unexpected difficulties as well. The end of our conversations often left me wondering, “What would we do without Jesus?”

I am reminded of God’s Word.
Job 12:10 (ESV) In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. 
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.  
Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

These truths about the greatness of our God are comforting to me. God is not inferior, untrustworthy, or incapable. He is great, all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere always. He is also holy. He is ultimate purity and righteousness. He is loving, kind, merciful, gracious, and good. God is also just. He is Savior. I can trust Him in all things, no matter what comes my way.

As children and as a singing family, we heard dad and mom sing one song often. That song was, My Father Planned It All.

1 – What tho’ the way be lonely
And dark the shadows fall;
I know wheree’er it leadeth,
My Father planned it all.

Chorus
I sing thru the shade and the sunshine,
I’ll trust Him whatever befall;
I sing for I cannot be silent–
My Father planned it all.

2 – There may be sunshine tomorrow,
Shadows may break and flee;
‘Twill be the way He chooses,
The Father’s plan for me.

3 – He guides my faltering footsteps
Along the weary way,
For well He knows the pathway
Will lead to endless day.

4 – A day of light and gladness
On which no shade will fall;
‘Tis this at last awaits me–
My Father planned it all.

The title of the sermon my father wanted for his funeral was Life Is a Journey. Over the past few years, he frequently used a couple of phrases. One was, “Your choices now will impact your future.”

Our lives are comprised of thousands of small decisions. On occasion, a major decision comes our way. Sometimes we are prepared. Sometimes life surprises us and we have to react to the unexpected challenges. What I can say is that on this ‘journey of life’, in the “sunshine” or “along the weary way” we will trust someone. Either ourselves or God.

Our lives are filled with lessons, hardships, heartaches, joys, and celebrations. There are moments we would rather erase from our memories and moments that we wished would last a lifetime. We know this for sure, the road of our lives will not always be smooth. Along that journey we will encounter many challenges. Those challenges will test our courage, strength, weakness, and our faith.

My father was a sinner. He knew that, because he confessed it and placed His trust in Jesus to be his Savior in his early teens. He became a child of God! Prior to that, the early days of his life were characterized by uncertainty in his family. You see, Jesus was not a part of his home life. Then one day, a knock on the door of their home brought hope. The unexpected in life called for a decision that saved his life.

My father wasn’t a perfect man, and he would be the first to admit that. But when he trusted Christ as his Savior, his life changed. He then began to trust the One who ‘who planned it all’. Not only the One who planned it all, but the One who sustains it all, and who can be trusted in it all. No matter what planned or unplanned events came into his life, Dad had someone above it all he could call on, trust in, and hold on to. A heavenly Father.

For those who are children of God, we are given new life with Christ and the promise of heaven. Not because of anything we have done, but because “God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us.” (Ephesians 2:4 ESV)

Paul goes on to tell us why in verse 7, “…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Dane Ortlund writes in the closing chapter of his book Gentle and Lowly these remarks on Ephesians 2:7:

Ephesians 2:7 is telling you that your death is not an end but a beginning. Not a wall, but a door. Not an exit, but an entrance. The point of all human history and eternity itself is to show what cannot be fully shown. To demonstrate what cannot be adequately demonstrated. In the coming age we will descend ever deeper into God’s grace in kindness, into his very heart, and the more we understand of it, the more we will see it to be beyond understanding. It is immeasurable.

For those not in Christ, this life is the best it will ever get. For those in Christ, for whom Ephesians 2:7 is the eternal vista just around the next bend in the road, this life is the worst it will ever get. In that resurrection morning, when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in the heavens, shining in all his brightness and glory, he will come forth as a bridegroom; he shall come in the glory of his Father, with all his holy angels.

On the journey, in the time of life’s biggest decision, Dad chose well, and it changed his future. Along the journey, in the expected and unexpected times of life he had someone he could depend on and hold on to. My Dad chose rightly, and he will enjoy the immeasurable riches of God’s grace and kindness forever!

Walking with you,

Pastor Brian

A CHALLENGE FOR YOU IN 2002

As you look back on this past year, are you saying to yourself “That was the roughest year of my life.” or “I am glad to end that year.”?  Whether you faced unexpected personal trials and challenges or struggled with what happened to the country that our forefathers had worked so hard to establish, we all hope that this new year brings hope of better days.

Hope is powerful. We all need it in sight, in our hearts and minds. Hope of rescue can give us the fuel and fortitude to remain faithful and not give up! Let me give you a challenge for 2022. A challenge to never give up! A Challenge to Remain Faithful!

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of 2022. Some of you began the year with the unexpected challenge of Covid-19. Some of you transitioned to a ‘warmer land’ down south. Some of you rested up from the busy holidays to get ready for a new year. Today, I want to highlight the message I preached this past Sunday.

My message was from Hebrews. In this book (actually, more of a sermon), the writer of Hebrews presents Jesus as supreme. Jesus as greater. The audience is made up of new Jewish converts to Christianity. Making the transition was a bit of a challenge for some, and the writer of Hebrews was assuring them that Jesus was greater than any of the leaders, prophets, and priests who had gone before them. The writer states that Jesus was God’s Son, even greater than the angels!

With that said, chapter 3 looks specifically at Moses, the great leader of the Israelites. God did many mighty acts through Moses to deliver the people from Egypt and to make them a nation – a people set apart for God’s purposes. Regardless of Moses’ greatness, Jesus was greater! Jesus had been counted worthy of more glory than Moses and was worth their allegiance.

From Hebrews 3, I presented three considerations for you as well, to remain faithful to Jesus. Three things to keep in mind when the trials and challenges of life come your way this year.

  1. Consider Jesus (vs. 1-6) – As he is writing to the Jewish believers, the author tells them not to lose focus on Jesus as He is central to life – especially when times are difficult. Pay attention to the gospel message you were given. Yes, it saved you, but as they say, “Preach the gospel to yourself every day.” Also, focus on the truths and realities of who Jesus is. It is essential to helping you remain faithful!

Why does it matter? Hebrews 2:1 (ESV) Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

  1. Consider your heart (vs.7-11) – “Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts.” When you are hearing God’s Word and His Spirit speaking, do not ignore Him. Don’t grow indifferent, cold, or distracted. Embrace His Word.

Remember what was done because of your selfishness and rebellion. Remember what was done for your salvation. Just like the people of Israel, God had done so much to deliver them from their captivity to the Egyptians. Yet, in the process, when things were hard, they complained and questioned God.

If we are not careful, the same can happen to us. Do not become consumed with the troubles you are facing and even seeing around you. Stay intentionally focused on the truth of His Word. Spend less time listening to news that is ‘spun’ and social media that is simply opinion. What is healthier food for your soul? Remember who God is and what God has done so your heart does not harden.

  1. Consider one another (vs. 12-19) – The last verses of the chapter take on a different tone. Not just considering how our heart can be unbelieving, evil, and grow hard toward the Lord. But when we lose sight of Jesus and let our circumstances ‘harden our heart’, our response from a hardened heart can negatively impact others in the church. Our heart can also become desensitized toward the needs and cares of others. Compassion, love, and grace will not be evident.

Instead, what we should be doing is encouraging and exhorting one another. “We have Christ! Let’s keep going and trusting!” We must care for one another, love one another, and keep pointing our brothers and sisters to Christ!  

As you face the coming days and year, be reminded of these three considerations from Hebrews 3. Remain faithful to Christ. Why? The consequences are serious, and Jesus is Greater!

Walking with you,

Pastor Brian

ARE YOU A LEGALIST?

In reading through the Bible, I am currently in the Gospel of John. I was recently reading through chapter nine, which contains the story of Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind. Take a moment to read about the encounter.

John 9:1-7 (ESV) As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

There are several truths from this passage we could consider here, like Jesus being the light of the world or Jesus’ method of restoring the man’s eyesight. But I want us to focus on Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question of “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Now at first we may find this an odd question. You and I know that some people are born blind. It is unfortunate. But I find it interesting that the disciples conclude that it had to be because he sinned, or his parents did.

Now let’s not be too hard on the disciples. I mean after all, they seemed sincere about their question. The truth is, we can be like the disciples from time to time as well. Let me explain. When an unexpected hardship interrupts our life, how often have we said, “Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?” What we are saying is that our good behavior should keep us from experiencing personal hardship.

We all believe that if we ‘obey the rules’ God has for us that we will not have to suffer the consequences of disobedience. I would agree with that. Not living a life obeying God will have its consequences. But does that mean we will never ever suffer? Does that mean our good behavior will always keep our lives free from hardship? No.

We must remember, we live in a fallen world. We know that living in a world of sin (rebellion against God) will bring many challenges and difficulties for everyone. If we fail to remember that then we will end up seeing hardship like the disciples did – from a legalist perspective. The Exalting Jesus Commentary explains it like this,

Legalism is the attempt to earn God’s favor through our own righteous works. A legalist operates under the (usually unspoken) assumption that people earn or keep God’s favor through righteous deeds, so legalists begin to view themselves as deserving of certain blessings. In other words, if I can earn God’s favor by my good works, then the more good works I do, the more God becomes indebted to me. He must reward my good deeds with blessings. If something “bad” happens to me, it must be because I did something bad.Even though we may not consciously think that we are trying to earn God’s favor, our reaction to the unexpected hardships of life indicates otherwise. For some reason we believe that our good behavior has made us exempt from hardship. We believe our good behavior has earned us a ‘free pass’ from suffering.

What I want you to see is Jesus’ response to the disciples in verse 3. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” That is a different perspective, isn’t it? Instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me?” or trying to find out who is to blame, Jesus is telling us we should have a different perspective. We should be asking, “What is God trying to do in this situation? How will God’s glory be displayed in this hardship?”

Personally, I am often reminded that God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. He desires to transform our hearts and minds to look more like His Son’s. Sure, we will have our time of happiness in life, but your personal happiness is not God’s number one objective. He is doing something much greater that has more eternal value than we know. Not just for us, but far beyond what we could ever imagine!

So the next time an unexpected hardship interrupts your life, receive it and know that God is wanting to be glorified in all things in your life. He IS up to something greater!

Walking with you,

Pastor Brian

LOVING GOD, LOVING OTHERS…THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

The past two Sundays I have preached on the two key issues that the apostle John states are the evidence of a person’s salvation. The first one has to do with our obedience to Christ. John states that whoever practices righteousness is born of Him. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil (1 John 2:29; 3:4 ESV). We obey because we confess we are sinners in need of a Savior. We obey because we come to realize the great salvation that has graciously been provided for us in Christ. We obey because we have been loved by God and He is worthy of our praise. This obedience looks like a pursuit of holiness in our lives because He is holy. Simply put, our obedience to Christ looks like a life lived in pursuit of Christ (Philippians 3).

If someone has been loved by God, then the second result ought to be that they love others. John emphasizes a love for the body of Christ in 1 John 3:14 (ESV), We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” This love is displayed not simply by words, but in our actions.

John states that this kind of love is Christlike. It is laying down our life for others in the body of Christ. Look at what John writes in verse 17, but if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Love for the body of Christ looks like giving from one’s own possessions to meet the needs of another Christian.

This past Sunday I shared the obstacle of a Christian loving well: “Love of self still gets in the way of love for God and one another” (Paul Tripp, Wednesday Word, August 25, 2021). Knowing this obstacle is of great importance. Why? When we are in that moment debating if we should respond in love, we can remember our problem and choose to love well.

All that said, knowing these biblical truths and intentionally abiding in Christ will give our lives ultimate meaning and purpose. As the apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:21, for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Christ is all in all, in life or in death!

I shared this overview for various reasons. One being in response to an article that I read, “How to Believe against Your Feelings” by Michael Kruger. Take a few minutes to read and reflect. Perhaps you have been in the place the author describes.

There were two things that stood out to me when I read the article. First, when we interpret the purpose of Christianity as “What’s in it for me?” we miss the point. Yes, there are wonderful provisions for us in Christ! But the benefits are enjoyed when a person confesses their sinfulness, repents, and believes the gospel. Too often people believe that Jesus is like a “genie in a bottle”. They see Him as their servant who is there to make ‘my life better’ in the here and now. Of course, this ‘better life’ is defined in our terms. When people see Jesus this way, He can then seem less satisfying.

The second comment that caught my attention was “Christianity is able to provide our lives with real meaning and purpose.” When understood from the biblical perspective (as we have noted the past two weeks), knowing and submitting ourselves to the love of Christ confirms this comment to be true. He and He alone, gives our life true meaning. When we find our life in Him, His purposes for our life begin to become very clear. We were created to love God and love others, for His glory alone!

Take some time to reflect on the truth of the Word of God. Be honest with God and confess that you have times when you tend to care more about yourself rather than God’s purposes. John gives us a great promise in 1:9 (ESV), if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Thank God for His love and grace!

Walking with you,

Pastor Brian

INSIGHTFUL AND REFLECTIVE ARTICLES

As you well know, your pastor loves to read. Along with always working through a book or two, I enjoy good articles that challenge, expand, and reinforce my thinking. I do want you to know that this is not at the expense of also spending regular time in God’s Word. It is truth and it often refreshes my soul in the craziness of life. But often reading various books and articles gives a different perspective and can expand my knowledge and understanding. Sometimes reading materials I do not completely adhere to will also reinforce and remind me of what I know to be true.

This week I have three articles I would challenge you to take time to read and reflect on:

Lessons from London for a Divided American Church by Joey Tomassoni

How to ‘Disciple’ Your Kids into Church Dropout Status by Jared C. Wilson

An Open Letter to the Hesitant Church-Goer by David Gundersen

In HIS hands,

Pastor Brian

 

A CHALLENGE TO BE ON MISSION

Our vacation has ended. Kyle and Kimberly are married. Carmela and I officially have an empty nest. Time moves on. It was just a few years ago that we started our family and it seemed that life promised many years of family enjoyment and raising children. Now we are at the stage of watching our children raise their children – seeing them grow and mature in the Lord. Where did all the time go?

As some of you know, we do not get to see our children and grandchildren but once or twice a year. Yes, it is difficult to miss the many special moments in their lives. But I know that God has called Carmela and I to a greater calling – the service of the King.  While family brings us great fun and enjoyment, it is not the primary focus of our lives.  The glory of God and a call to His purposes is much greater. Jesus put it this way with some tough words when it comes to being His disciple, Luke 14:26 (NLT), “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”

Recently I finished reading the book Stay Salt by Rebecca Manley Pippert. In my reading, there were many thought-provoking statements that I wanted to share with you. Why? Because I feel most of us “lack”. You may ask, “Pastor, what do you mean?”  We “lack” intentional engagement with others about the hope of the gospel. Often, we do not see ourselves as ambassadors of the King. We can be so caught up in the things of the world – family (ouch!), sports (they can often take priority over ministry), possessions (as though we need all the latest gadgets), our homes (as though this is our final home), politics (as though man has all the answers), etc. that we fail to keep the ‘main thing, the main thing.’

May these excerpts from Rebecca Manley Pippert’s book, Stay Salt, stir our hearts and minds to draw us back to the mission. First, let’s start with Romans 10:14 (NLT), “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

 Quotes:

“We need to be praying and asking God through his Spirit to give us courage, wisdom, and a deeper love for him and for others.”

“When we look at how believers engaged in evangelism in the Bible, we see it comprising three things. Evangelism is the act of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in word (proclamation) and deed (actions) and invitation (calling people to trust Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior). Those three actions—speaking the good news, living the good news, and inviting others to follow Jesus—are essential to biblical evangelism.”

“It is God and only God who brings people to faith in his Son—wonderfully, he usually does that life-changing work through his people.”

“Where do we begin in being a witness for Jesus? First, look at the people God has brought into your life: neighbors, colleagues at work, people at the gym, parents of your kids’ friends, and so on. Then think about how to simply build real friendships with them.”

When people believe you genuinely care about them, they are more apt to open up and engage in conversation. The process may be long, but if we care, we will take the time needed.

Manley Pippert offers these suggestions as a guide to move a conversation with someone toward the gospel. This issue is a problem for many:

  • Pray – Prayer is our primary work. Always seek the Lord.
  • Find common ground – Look for areas you have in common to talk about.
  • Ask good questions – Challenge their thinking without being overly aggressive. Ask “why” questions.
  • Gently challenge someone’s worldview with further questions – Listen respectfully and take their responses seriously. Be slow to point out where they are wrong.
  • Agree where you can, then steer the conversation with God’s truth.
  • Point to the deeper problem with man – sin. Express the idea using the terminology they have already used.

I trust these excerpts give you some ‘food for thought.’ Are you actively on mission? Yes, how we live matters greatly. But living daily ‘on mission’ to engage with others about Jesus should be on our radar as well.

Why? He matters more!

Walking with you,

Pastor Brian

WHERE IS OUR SAVIOR THESE DAYS?

I am sitting here in my study at church reflecting on the past year. All of our lives have been impacted by the ‘unexpected’ this year. Typically, in the past years of our lives there has been a certain amount of predictability. Yes, the ‘unexpected’ would come into our lives, but for the most part, our lives have been peaceful and predictable.

Perhaps because of all the ‘unexpected’, unsettling, and extreme happenings, the thought has crossed your mind – “Jesus, where are you in all of this?” Recently, I started reading through the Psalms. In some psalms you can hear the writer often echo the same question, “God, where are you? Help!” Have you ‘been there’ this year? If I am honest, I have asked that question as well.

As you know, I am a reader. A few weeks ago, I selected three books on Kindle that interested me. One was titled “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund. I had read a review on the book and it was highly recommended.

I will have to admit, initially I had a hard time engaging with it. I persisted though and stayed the course. Then I came to chapter 8. This was in the midst of being laid up at home, suffering from Covid-19. The chapter was titled “To the Uttermost.” Under the title, the last part of Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) was quoted, “he always lives to make intercession for them.”

As I moved into the chapter, the Spirit of God pulled me into the truths that were being written. Ortlund stages the writing with speaking of justification. He states, “as a way of framing what intercession is and its present neglect, consider it in relation to the doctrine of justification. Much has been written and preached and taught about this glorious doctrine in recent years—as it should be. To be justified is to be declared righteous in the sight of God, fully legally exonerated in the divine court, based entirely on what another (Jesus) has done in our place.”

As a child of God, we can rejoice in the justification God has provided for us through His Son Jesus! But what Ortlund notes is, justification is what Jesus has done in the past through His death and resurrection. With this context, Ortlund then states “justification is tied to what Christ did in the past. Intercession is what he is doing in the present.”

What do you think of when you hear the word intercession? My mind immediately thinks of prayer. Some have thought, ‘Why would Christ be interceding for us? Wouldn’t that make justification incomplete?’ Ortlund explains intercession like this, “in general terms it means that a third party comes between two others and makes a case to one on behalf of the other. Intercession applies what the atonement accomplished. Christ’s present heavenly intercession on our behalf is a reflection of the fullness and victory and completeness of his earthly work, not a reflection of anything lacking in his earthly work. The atonement accomplished our salvation; intercession is the moment-by-moment application of that atoning work.” 

The insights from Ortlund opened my mind to understanding Christ’s intercession. Think about this. “His interceding for us reflects his heart—the same heart that carried him through life and down into death on behalf of his people is the heart that now manifests itself in constant pleading with and reminding and prevailing upon his Father to always welcome us.”

The explanation from Ortlund spoke to my heart. So much so, I read these insights to the Governing Board at our December monthly meeting. What impacted me was the reminder that, “his posture right now as he is in heaven, his disposition, his deepest desire, is to pour his heart out on our behalf before the Father. The intercession of Christ is his heart connecting our heart to the Father’s heart.”

In the first part of verse 25, the writer of Hebrews says, “he is able to save to the uttermost” (ESV). What is being said here? Ortlund explains, “’to the uttermost’ in Hebrews 7:25 means: God’s forgiving, redeeming, restoring touch reaches down into the darkest crevices of our souls, those places where we are most ashamed, most defeated. More than this: those crevices of sin are themselves the places where Christ loves us the most. His heart willingly goes there. His heart is most strongly drawn there.”

What a great truth to be reminded of! Jesus goes to the extreme places in our lives because He loves us. There is no limit of His love. We cannot become a too messed up, hopeless case for Him. He goes to the uttermost of our souls! As I read this a couple of weeks ago, it again gave me the assurance that my Savior is before the throne always interceding for me before the Father. And there is nothing in my life, too far out that His love will not reach.

As I came near to the end of the chapter in Ortlund’s book, he reminds us that Jesus is praying for us now. Even when we struggle with maintaining our prayer life with Him.

Then he makes this comment, “what if you heard Jesus praying aloud for you in the next room? Few things would calm us more deeply.” I pictured that in my mind and tears began to flow down my cheeks. To think, the Creator of the universe, the Creator of the large things and the microscopic, is praying for me! His love has no limits.

Oh my, what a fresh reminder of my Savior. He is not sitting up there, work done, and simply being a spectator of my life. No, He is always actively making intercession for me!

Walking with you,

Pastor Brian

*Quotes taken from Ortlund, Dane C. Gentle and Lowly, chapter 8. Crossway. Kindle Edition.

WHAT ARE WE TO THINK ABOUT SUFFERING?

In the midst of my recent suffering with Covid-19, I finished reading the book of Job. Finishing the book caused me to ask questions and reflect. Questions like, “If in the beginning of Job God says of him, Job 1:8 (NLT) Then the LORD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil” then why does God correct him in chapter 38?” Yes, Job was a God-fearing man of integrity, but not a sinless man.

 

Throughout the book, Job is thinking and assessing – ‘Why did this happen to me?’ He searches his heart and believes there is not willful sin that would bring this upon him. His three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar try to console and correct Job in the process. They really believe Job has sinned and thus brought this suffering upon himself. We know their theology was wrong because in chapter 42:7-9 God speaks to them and tells them He is angry for not speaking accurately about Him.

 

Job spent a lot of time thinking and assessing his life and why something like this would come his way. What was missing in all of this we start to see in chapter 38. God addresses Job in 38:1-3 (NLT) Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.”  “Who questions my wisdom…”

 

Terence Fretheim states in his book, Creation Untamed:  The Bible, God and Natural Disasters, that “Trusting in God’s wisdom is the strongest counsel the Bible has to offer; it must suffice. One of the ways we trust God’s wisdom is by refraining from inquiring why God did such a thing to us, or even why He allowed it to happen. God is never uninvolved in cause, but neither should we assume that He is directly involved in causation.”

 

Job 40:1-5 (NLT) Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”

 

What are we to take from this? We are not to question God’s purposes and wisdom. Most often suffering deepens a believer’s faith. We should commit ourselves to honoring God and living for Him no matter what circumstances He brings into our lives. Our prayer during these times should be for God to strengthen us so we can endure the suffering and be faithful to Him throughout the trial.

 

Job’s trial concludes with this response to God, Job 42:1-6 (NLT) Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

 

May we trust the Lord’s wisdom in our lives. Even when we do not have answers and do not understand, we must trust a sovereign, all-wise God.

 

Walking with you,

 

Pastor Brian

A THEOLOGY ADJUSTMENT

Over the past few weeks, the Covid-19 virus has hit much closer to home for our church family. If you contracted the virus, perhaps you have thought, “I wasn’t careless. I washed my hands, I stayed away from others (safely), and wore my mask! Why did I come down with this sickness?” I have found that you can make all the right plans and ‘follow the rules’ and life’s trials will still find their way onto your path.

As I have begun to read through the book of Job, it is clear that you can do all the right things – honor God, by being faithful and obedient to Him – and unexplained tragedy can still come your way. In Job’s case, from out of the blue, he loses all the possessions, family, and good health that he had been blessed with. How incredibly devastating! We have all tragically lost something we had enjoyed in life. I am pretty sure it was not the degree of loss that Job experienced.

Most often when something tragic happens to us, the first thought that enters our mind is, “What did I do to deserve this?” Many of us would say we are ‘rule-followers’ to some degree. We believe that if we live ‘by the rules’ then life will go much better and it will be somewhat free of challenge and conflict. Often that is true.

Example: if we drive at or around the speed limit, we will be safer. That is often true, but everyone else would have to ‘play by the rules’ to help that become a reality. Nature would have to cooperate as well in order for roads to always be safe. But as we know, sometimes no matter how well we ‘do the right thing’, the unexpected events of life can catch us off guard.

In chapter 3, Job laments. He mourns and grieves. It is the needed and normal thing to do when we suffer loss. He wishes he had never been born! Of course, if that really were the case, he would also never have enjoyed the blessings of the Lord. But in this moment, his grieving is so deep and painful, he would rather not have experienced the pain of loss than to be born. This is deep lament.

Over the next chapters (4-27), we have recorded the comments from Job and his three friends. They are trying to give an explanation and reason for why all these things happened to Job. Of course, the reasoning “There must have been great sin in your life.” was brought up and debated. Truthfully, they are not doing a good job of comforting Job!

The theology of the three friends was partially solid. They believed God was absolutely in control. They also believed God was fair and just. So far, I can agree with their beliefs. But then what we see is this; if those two are true of God, therefore, He always punishes wickedness and always blesses righteousness. Therefore, if we experience suffering, we must have sinned and are being punished for our sin. Our suffering, in one sense, is God’s discipline and because He loves us, He is disciplining us. Psalm 32 and Hebrews 12 do speak of God disciplining us in love because of our sin. But, is our suffering, always a result of sin in our lives, as Job’s friends seem to believe?

What his three friends are missing in their theology is what we read in Job 1, 2. They do not consider the unseen spiritual battle going on. They are totally unaware of a bigger story being written in Job’s life. We have the benefit of knowing that God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith in God.

In Ephesians 6, we read of the armor of God. In the reality of our spiritual battle, Paul challenges the believer to ‘put on the armor of God.’ Why? It is what keeps us standing firm when life’s unexpected challenges come our way. The piece of the armor I think of especially is the ‘shield of faith.’ Throughout the Old Testament we see God referenced as our shield (Gen. 15:1; Prov. 30:5; Psalm 3:3; Psalm 91). For the child of God, biblical faith finds its strength in the truth of God.

As you read through Job, you will find that Job, after all his lamenting and sorting through his thoughts and feelings, will hold fast to his integrity (27:1-6). Job also holds onto a theology of God that is different than that of his friends. Yes, he searches for reasoning and questions it all, but he never lets go of what he knows to be true of God (Job 26, 27).

Yes, ultimately, we suffer because we live in a world marred by sin. Yes, we can suffer the consequences of our sin or the sin of others. But also know that sometimes our suffering comes as part of the testing of our faith. The question is, who or what will we hold to when the suffering comes?

In HIS hands,

Pastor Brian