Monthly Archives: March 2016

Called by God

By: Pastor Heidi Kratz

Jonah 1:1,2

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against  it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

In Kids’ Church we have just finished studying the books of the Prophets in the Old Testament.  The prophets are divided into 2 parts:  Major Prophets and Minor Prophets.  The book of Jonah is one of the Minor Prophets.  A prophet is one who is called by God and speaks for him.  In the Old Testament prophets were sent in times of crisis when the children of Israel were in trouble.  In the “What’s in the Bible” series they talk about prophets being like an alarm clock  for God’s people.  What is the purpose of an alarm clock?  To wake us up so we don’t miss something important.  Prophets had a difficult job to do.  They had to give a message to God’s people when they were wandering and going their own way.

Jonah’s call was to “go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it”.  Jonah knew that God’s call was going to be difficult so what did he do?   He ran away and ended up inside a fish praying desperately for God to help him.  I would also be in “distress” (Jonah 2:2) if I was inside a fish for 3 days and nights.

In Chapter 3 the Lord called Jonah again.  “Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it”.  This time Jonah obeyed.

What are you called to do?  If you are a disciple of Jesus we are called to live a life of sacrifice.  It is not an easy path at times, but we can put our trust in God to help us in our calling.

“But I, with a song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you.”  Jonah 2:9

 

One Who Serves

By: Pastor Vern Kratz

As I read through today’s passage, found in Luke 22:1-38, I note several phrases and verses that just jump off the page, some of them I have never really spent a lot time thinking about before. Let me encourage you to take the time to read it and see what words or phrases the Holy Spirit highlights for you. It’s a great passage to read this week as we head towards Good Friday and Easter morning.

But right in the middle of today’s passage there is a verse I want to dwell on for just a moment, because it is a good reminder for all of us.

Verse 24 tells us, “…a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.”

Can you imagine? Jesus is about to be crucified, sacrificed for the sins of the entire world. So he gets together with his closest followers, his closest friends, for a final meal together, and all they can do is talk about themselves and argue as to who was the greatest.

But Jesus, was the Master Teacher, and was graciously patient with his sometimes immature disciples. Even in this moment, when all thoughts and efforts should have been turned towards Jesus to encourage and lift him up and strengthen him for what he was about to endure, Jesus instead takes it as an opportunity to remind his followers of how they ought to act towards one another.

Jesus reminds them (and us), “…the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Verse 26)

This was among some of Jesus’ final words before going to the cross. I would consider them of great importance. Something we should take heed of and put into practice.

How can you choose to be a servant today? How can you place someone else’s needs ahead of yours? How can you bless someone else today? By doing so you are becoming more like Jesus.

Jesus said, “But I am among you as one who serves.” (Verse 27)

There are a few verses in today’s passage that I don’t quite understand, but verse 26 is pretty clear, Jesus wants us to serve. As we continue with our week leading up to Easter let us continue to remind ourselves that Jesus came as a servant and he expects us to follow his example.

Be a blessing this Easter!

Afflicted by God

By Gary Jennings (Lead Pastor)                                                               

RAP – It’s simple to do. Read a passage; Apply the passage, and Pray the passage. Everyone can rap.

I sat down in my chair on Tuesday morning, March 16, opened up my Bible and got ready to be blessed by God’s word. Our scripture for this day was Lamentations 3:1-33. I must admit, this reading was far from blessing me as I read the first twenty-one verses. My first reaction was that this is not great sermon material at all. In fact, has any preacher used this as his text to exhort the people of God? There is no exhortation here. I wanted to sink in my chair. There are no Godly fuzzies. There are no spiritual butterflies. There are no incredible one liners to stick up on my fridge door to help me begin my day with. I wanted to forget what I just read. If you have not read this, you must do so. But do so at your own risk.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations and here is what he says about God in the first 21 verses of Lamentations 3: He has driven me away, He has made my skin and my flesh grow old, He has walled me in, He dragged me from the path and mangled me, He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows, He has broken my teeth with gravel. He has trampled me in the dust. Wait a minute, is this my God? Are you being blessed and exhorted as I quote? What am I to do with this? Shall I skip this and go on to something more pleasant? Ah, yes I could, but no, I can’t. I must try to understand this. This could be great, if I stop to ponder.

I do remember my sister Karen experiencing discomfort from my mother. It’s called discipline; and she needed it. She was bad. I recall the usual procedure. Mom would send her to her room and she would go on and on through sobs and tears about how bad mom was. I got used to the routine and the descriptive downer one liners about my mother. Mom was still in the house, and probably in the kitchen preparing for our next meal. But today, I must say Karen turned out very well. She is a great sister, mother, and wife, and I love her dearly.

I remember my own discomfort I experienced from my parents. The suffering I am referring to is also being sent to my room and being alienated from the family; losing my family privileges, not getting my allowance; not allowed to watch The Beverly Hillbillies for a couple of evenings. My parents even took my car keys from me one time. How could they? They were such meanies. Oh, but look at me now. I am almost 60 and my wife says I turned out pretty good. I agree. Ha.

So let’s get back to that Lamentations scripture passage and try to figure this one out. The writer says in chapter 33:22, Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Another scripture verse that comes to my mind is Hebrews 12:6, where it says, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. God is our heavenly Father, and He loves us too much to allow us to go our own fleshly way. So He corrects, so that we may turn out to be more like Him.

Pastor Ruth Denboer said this in one of our staff meetings; God is interested in our holiness, not our happiness. This is so true.

So, we are told that the writer in Lamentations 3 is identifying with God’s chosen people, the Israelites. They were like a wayward child. They were rebellious in so many ways. Because God had restoration on his mind, corrective measures were being taken.

Jeremiah was feeling what the people were feeling as he penned these descriptive words. My outlined Bible tells me that there are two themes for Lamentations. First, the misery that sin brings, and secondly, the love and compassion of Jehovah for the subjects of his wrath

Ah, now I get it. Sin never pays great dividends.

By the way, if you are reading Lamentations 3, please do not stop at verse 21 in discouragement, keep reading. It does get better.

Don’t Give Up

Pastor Ruth Denboer

What an interesting combination of scripture this week.  We start with Jeremiah reminding the Israelite people to obey God and stay where God had put them … even though it meant they were in exile and it was not pleasant.  He reminds them it was their own sin that put them there.  Then we jump into Lamentations … which is exactly that … a book of Jeremiah’s laments (cries) as he witnesses the spiritual death and physical destruction of the Holy city of Jerusalem.

It has been said that no person pleaded with a people more, calling for a national conversion than Jeremiah did.  And that no one besides Jesus was treated with as much contempt as he was.   Yet he continued to believe.

It is very difficult watching people we love suffer for any reason.  But of course we know that suffering touches all of us at some point.  It is particularly difficult watching children suffer.  It is easy to wonder, “Where is God?” But we must remember this, in a world that is plagued with evil, sometimes even the innocent suffer.

I found these verses smack in the middle of the book of Lamentations to be so inspiring.

Lamentations 3:

20I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. 

21Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

22The faithful love of the lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.

23Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

24I say to myself, “The lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

We must not forget where our help comes from.  It is easy to push away from God when trouble comes, but the end of the readings this week remind us that this is exactly the time we need to run to God with persistence.  This is when we need to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness.  The faithful love of the LORD never ends!  His mercies never cease.  I will place my hope in Him!

No doubt there are times we need to talk ourselves back to believing this, but as we read in Luke 11: 9“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

DON’T GIVE UP when the going gets tough!  Instead … go to God!

 

 

Solomon’s Wisdom

Solomon’s Wisdom

Pastor Nikki Ragush

Our High School Youth (Focus) are currently going through the book of James together. In the 3rd chapter it begins to talk about wisdom, which I thought was fitting for this week’s reading. There are many gifts that we can pray that God blesses us with, and wisdom is one I’ve continued to seek for much of my life.

Solomon has the opportunity to ask God for anything in the world; initially people may imagine a trip, a new house, a nice car, all their debt to be paid off, a large family, and many other possibilities. Solomon knew immediately what he needed though to pursue the journey God was going to take Him on, he needed wisdom. It’s kind of funny to think that Solomon had enough wisdom already to ask for wisdom, but he knew that was only a small portion of what he’d need to continue to rule as king. God’s Word version of the Bible explains it that Solomon asked “Give me a heart that listens so that I can judge your people and tell the difference between good and evil. After all, who can judge this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9) Wisdom isn’t as complicated as we sometimes can make it out to be, however Solomon knew the difference it makes in everyday life.

Right away God gives Solomon an opportunity to put these newly given wisdom to a test with two women fighting over who a baby belonged to (1 Kings 3:16-28). God didn’t given Solomon the wisdom to know immediately who was the mother to this child, but instead helped Solomon to figure out a test that would quickly reveal who was truly the mother of the child. Wisdom wasn’t something super glamorous or even obvious, but it was a constant help to Solomon.

I think of situations I run into daily in my life, sometimes I’d like God to give me the answer on what to do, but having wisdom is as if God has already equipped us with the ability to know what to do. If I was to characterize wisdom as a person they’d be the dependable friend who always stands beside you, maybe you don’t have some crazy fun story to tell every time you hang out but you know they’ll be there for you in a pinch. James says wisdom can be seen in this way “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10)