Life is Happening in Front of, not Behind You


Another walk with Violet, another illustration on life. Violet, I’m sure most of you know by now, is our Goldendoodle. Unless it is a downpour, my wife Betsy and I take her for a 1.5 mile walk every morning.

Violet, in my somewhat jaded opinion, is simply the best dog ever. She is everything I could hope for in a pet: a wonderful disposition, smart and non-shedding (those of you who have had Basset Hounds know how good this can be!) All in all, Vi is very low maintenance.

This is not to say that she has no faults at all. Her need to have absolutely everything (wind velocity and direction along with proper barometric pressure) in order so she can go number 2 can be frustrating. The other quirk my dog exhibits is the inspiration for this post: Violet frequently (and for no apparent reason) will whip her head around to look behind while continuing to walk forward. This peculiar behavior has caused her to walk into more than one car bumper on our strolls.

Being one who talks to the dog like she’s human, I have tried to explain to Violet that life is happening in front of, not behind, her. If she would only stop looking back so much I tell her, she could avoid the painful bumps on her skull. While my discussions on this point have revealed little change in Vi’s frequent over-the-shoulder glances, I have been trying to apply this same principle to my life.

One of the teachings from 12 Step recovery says that we do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. (From AA’s Big Book.) Simply stated, this tells me to learn from my past mistakes to reduce the likelihood of repeating them. To shut out all the memories from my dark past, then, would be a mistake, less I forget the lessons I have now gleaned from them.

For the most part, I have had success with this. By keeping some of the pain I caused in my consciousness, I am reminded daily of the devastation I am capable of but certainly do not want to inflict or go through again.

However, there are certain events or conversations, no matter how old they are, that will still pop up in my head, trying to gain my full attention. Things that I thought I had dealt with will seemingly be there out of blue. Hurts, both real and imagined, will come swimming to the forefront of my thoughts. These tend to keep my focus on things past rather than on what is in front of me.

Most of the time, I realize that these random intrusions are just that, random. Part of not shutting the door on the past does make it possible for other things kept back there to want to creep out. Staying aware of this happening often allows me to quickly put them back in their proper place.

When I do not quickly put these thoughts back into the past however, if I decide to linger over them, I risk joining Violet in bumping into something right in front of me because my focus was on what I thought might be behind me.

Like Vi, I need to remind myself that life is currently happening in front of me, not behind. If I will but properly use and learn from the experiences of my past, I can usually avoid bumping my head when I did not have to.

Life’s joys, challenges and yes, mundane daily occurrences are all happening before my eyes. Things to enjoy, challenges to be met and rote things to be done can all be further experiences to help me learn and grow in this life. But I must face them all, head on, without spending undue time trying to walk forward while staring backward.

Like most opportunities to learn, this one is a process for me. There are times when I wonder how I could have ever stumbled by looking back, and there are times when I wonder if I will ever get my focus back to where it needs to be.

God, in His mercy, is always ready to guide me back into His light. He will minister to my heart regarding those things in the past that vie for attention when they have already been forgiven by Him. When I live this out, I avoid many unpleasant bumps to my noggin.

As for Violet, I guess I will just have to be diligent for her as I remind myself that some of her lumps on the head have helped me avoid some of my own!

How about you? I’d love to hear how you have dealt/deal with the thoughts of the past as you try to navigate the present.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Forgiven and forgotten: A lesson learned from a 20 yard dumpster

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Last week my wife Betsy and I rented a 20 yard roll off dumpster. Though we are no hoarders by any stretch of the imagination, two decades of living in the same, relatively small house does manage to collect and store lots of stuff. Most of it was deemed essential at one point (or thought it would be in the future), hence the slow increase of clutter in our garage and the storage space above it.

Betsy took some time off from her job so that we could work together on this project. On Wednesday, the empty container was left in our driveway.

That first afternoon we moved the heavy and cumbersome things from the garage into the container. We got a later start that planned on Thursday and by that days end we had completed just the downstairs area, leaving the more difficult upstairs work for Friday.

Friday morning we cheerfully and carefully started getting things down the ladder and out to the dumpster and several short hours later, the job was done!

As encouraging as I hope this is to you if you are faced with de-junking your home, especially if you were born during the Kennedy administration, the pastor/preacher in me feels compelled to share the two points God has laid on my heart about this task we undertook. I say from God because on my own I do not think I would have equated filling a dumpster with old things with God’s forgiveness of our sins!

Let me start with the Scripture that came to mind as I pondered all this:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:11-12 NIV).

Much as I watched the company truck haul our old stuff away, God forgives our sins (when we come to him humbly asking Him to do so). The drivers job was to take the dumpster away, not fill it for us. So too we must come before our merciful God seeking His forgiveness. The Apostle John describes it this way:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NIV).

Like the things, some new, some old, that were cluttering up our living spaces, unrepented sin in our hearts keeps us separated from the closeness God wants us to know in Him. By cleaning out the garage and upstairs storage area, we can now walk safely through them. No longer is the thought running through my head that someday I must get rid of all this. It is gone because we hauled it to the light of day and then had it all taken away.

There is so much learn about God’s forgiveness! I hope, Precious Reader, you can glean some of the joy and excitement I am experiencing through this expression of how God continues to work in all who are willing to do their part. Betsy and I decided it was time to jettison the old, space-filling things, and then watched as they were taken away.

As I think about this, what a blessing forgiveness from God truly is. Psalm 103:12 tells us that He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. Just how far is that? Picture a globe and start moving east. You are always moving in that direction. Moving east never becomes starting to move west. God is telling us that He removes our transgressions to a point beyond measurement!

And one more thing. Much as I do not have to worry that the full dumpster will someday re-appear in my driveway, once God forgives things they are forgotten, (on His part). Our human frailties seem to want to examine that old useless and potentially harmless stuff. Not God! He spoke this truth through the Prophet Jeremiah as He described what the New Covenant of His forgiveness would be like:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34b NIV).

God has promised to take away our sins. As proof look only to the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ that was shed for the remission of sin. We experienced a great reminder of this eternal truth as we watched the dumpster of unwanted things taken from our presence.

Having a clean and spacious garage is cool; remembering again the depth of God’s mercy and grace as evidenced by His willingness to forgive, however, is beyond compare.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Is this the end (or a beginning)?

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(image courtesy of time/life)

Frequently, when folks are knocked from the routine of their lives by world events, I am asked if I think this is the start of the end times that the Bible speaks of. The corona pandemic certainly falls under this category, perhaps bringing this question to me more than ever.

My answer to the question is  definite “I do not know.” I base my uncertainty not on my inability to fathom the depths of the pandemic, but rather on the very words of Jesus Himself. His disciples we’re coming to grips with the fact that the Lord would be leaving them. Having heard Jesus say that He would return, they were looking for when that time would occur.

As recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples asked Him, “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3a NIV)

The answer Jesus gave them is the same one He gives all of us concerning the when of the end of the world: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV)

Because the Lord Himself tells us we cannot know when the end will come; I believe the better question to ask is this: “Am I ready for His return if this is indeed the end?” Seeing that we will never be able to ascertain the exact date or season of the Second Coming of Christ, trying to decipher current events in this context is fruitless.

Of much more importance (eternally so I might add), is the question posed about our readiness for His re-appearance. Given that I cannot know the day or hour, what I can control is whether or not I am prepared for the triumphant return of King Jesus. Please understand, my preparation has no ‘to do’ list attached. What it does entail is my heart position toward Jesus: do I believe He is who He says He is? Was He crucified in my place and resurrected from the dead? Have I asked Him to forgive me of my sinfulness? Having received forgiveness through His grace, does my life reflect the love God has shown me in all I say and do?

Being able to honestly answer yes to these questions allows you to know beyond any doubt that God has poured His loving forgiveness on you. Therefore, whenever He does return, you are ready!

To the believer in Jesus Christ the Second Coming is the end of life as we have known it here on earth and the indescribably awesome beginning of forever life in His presence.

And if, Dear Reader, you are undecided about who Jesus is, might I kindly suggest that you re-consider your stand. If this were truly the end of life on this planet, to you really want to face the possibility of existing forever knowing that you missed the greatest opportunity ever given? Should your evaluation reveal to your heart and mind that you do indeed need the Savior, please answer the above questions again. What a beginning to a never-ending life awaits you!


Pastor Chuck


Good News or Bad News First?

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Thank you, faithful Reader, for indulging me (or maybe with me) during my last post about half-moon cookies.  Reading that you should have gotten the sense of my fondness for those tasty treats.  Enjoy them as I do, those cookies don’t hold much eternal significance.  So it’s back to what really gets my motor running, considering the Great and Awesome God I serve!

Allow me to start with yet another question: Which do you prefer to hear first, good news or bad.  I know we have each been asked this countless times.  I won’t delve into the motive of the bearer of this query (this time).  Rather, I’d like to first consider which one the majority of us seem to want to hear first.

My observation clearly points to the majority of folks when given the choice of good/bad news first, respond by opting to start with the bad.  This is almost always my response in these situations as well.  The thought process is simple: get whatever the bad news is out of the way and hopefully the good will far outweigh it.  I think it pretty safe to assume we all run along a similar track.

As a pastor/preacher/teacher/learner however, I find a different order given when the question arises in the Christian context.  It is my privilege and pleasure to speak often about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the word gospel in the original Greek can be translated as good news).  Christianity 101 teaches that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on a cross in order to open the way for sinners just like me to enter into a loving relationship with the above-mentioned awesome God.  Jesus’ selfless act was done in order that sin may be forgiven.  This gift of forgiveness is offered to absolutely everyone, any where, any time! Because the bible teaches there is no way I can earn God’s forgiveness on my own;  that Jesus has done this for me/us is the best possible news ever.

My interactions with others in ministry often brings me the opportunity to explain, as best I can, how this plan of God’s works.  In attempting to do so, I often use the good news/bad news question.  In this context, the vast majority of folks I talk with are extremely excited about the Good News, but not so much the bad.

Can there be a bad side to this you (and many of them) ask? Yes, there most definitely is.  For this Good News to be truly that, we must recognize our need of it.  It is essential to understanding God’s loving forgiveness.  The bad news, simply put, is that I (and all humans) are born separated from God because of our sinful nature.  I’ll spare you the theological argument for this for now by offering the following example of the nature we are all born with: place two equally well-cared for 2 year old children in a room with only 1 toy.  The fighting and arguing that will result is sufficient evidence.  They didn’t have to be taught to be selfish or greedy, they (and we) were born that way.

It is in this admittedly oversimplified example that we still can find the truth of God in regard to salvation.  We are defiled at birth by the sin that is inherent in us.  Our Holy God, by being holy, cannot be in fellowship with us while we remain stained in our imperfection.  Hence the need of the greatest news of all time; the resurrection of Jesus Christ bridges that gap for those who put their faith in Him!

It is with my strongest, most loving recommendation that when pondering things eternal, please acknowledge first the bad news as I have presented it because in so doing, you may well become more aware of your desperate need of the Good News.  This need can and will be met by a loving God who deeply desires that we come humbly to Him.

My experience with this very thing has led to blessings far to numerous to count, but one I will mention is this: knowing my place in God’s heart because I trust in Jesus makes it much easier to face the good news/bad news situations that still occur to me.  I pray you may be blessed in a like manner.

My deepest appreciation for taking to the time to read this.  I welcome you thoughts on any of the above and would love to hear as well how you deal with the good and bad news of life.

Blessings to all,

Pastor Chuck

PS: For my younger readers, the image at the top is of a newspaper, a thing that many of my generation read before phones and other electronic devices made them extinct.


A blog from the future, dated 2525

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Guest contributors: Zagar and Evans (not really, but some of you will get the reference)

(This entry has been translated from binary code to English)

A historic find of some significance was uncovered recently.  In what was once referred to as the United States of America, a strange book was found beneath tons of plastic bags and other trash.  This book, ironically persevered in plastic, had the words Holy Bible emblazoned on the front cover.  The find was in remarkably good condition given its age.  The non-human excavators surmise that it hadn’t been opened even before finding its way to the bottom of the trash heap.

Professors of ancient language and history have busied themselves studying the relic.  Language experts have determined it is written in a forgotten language called English.  Though the study of the original language is important, what has the Rabbit Ruling Class most concerned is what is recorded in the last third of the book.

The historians have pieced together a most remarkable tale of a deity taking human form to live among them.  Further study has revealed that this was supposed to be part of a major plan to bring salvation to humankind as the person/god was to die for something called ‘forgiveness of sins.’ This unbelievable plan was celebrated yearly in an event called Easter, from which many now think comes the origin of the Sect of the Blessed Bunny.  In any event, this so-called Easter season traditionally started on what was called Ash Wednesday.

In the considered opinion of Zagar and Evans, these long-forgotten words will hold no meaning to our advanced culture, for apparently they had little impact on those it was originally intended for.

We give great thanks to the Ruling Rabbit in the Great Hutch in the Sky that these confusing ideas died with that long-ago culture.  One can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if this crazy story gained a foothold today.  If it did, untold millions might have to forego their quota of chocolate (shaped like the Ruling Rabbit, of course).  We shudder to think what would happen to the millions whose livelihood depends on chocolate production should our spring-time celebration of the Holy Hare be interrupted.

Fear not, you who happily hop along the bunny trail, our greatest minds agree that this notion of a God dying to save others will remain buried in the trash heap.  It is truly too crazy to believe.  And even if it were true, chocolate is so much sweeter.


Zagar and Evans

A little satire to start your Lenten journey, Faithful Reader.  May it help you to consider the true wonder of this Easter season which begins today: There is a God who loves you so very much that He did indeed provide the way to salvation.  Now that’s sweet!

Pastor Chuck


But wait, there’s more!!!!!

See the source imageRonco Vegematic (Pinterest)

Ronco advertisements, those earliest of TV info-mercials, always used the tag line: but wait, there’s more! It implied that no matter what a great deal you were getting on their veg-e-matic with all its many attachments, there was something more coming for those who ordered right now.

 No matter how well your new veg-e-matic was going to ‘slice, dice and make julienne fries,’ the ad promised even more if you would only order Right Now! Jesus makes no such slanted an offer to you and me.  He is the best! Now and forever.  There’s no need to make a hurried phone call to assure yourself of being one of the few lucky ones to get whatever was being tangled in front of your eyes.

As an example, consider the first miracle recorded in John’s Gospel.  In it, Jesus changed water into wine. The whole account can be found in the beginning of John Chapter 2.  Jesus, as a guest at a wedding, is informed by His mother that the hosts have run out of wine.  The Lord then instructs some servants to fill 6 stone jugs with water, each with a capacity of 20-30 gallons.  It must have been one big party (they sometimes went on for a week) considering Jesus was about to miraculously make another 100 gallons of wine!  Thirst of the wedding guests aside, I like to spend our time together today discussing what the master of ceremonies had to say when he tasted this newly created vintage.

He asked the groom why he had broken tradition and saved the very best wine for last, after the guests were already well lubricated.  You were always bring it out first, so that folks could discern what excellent wine you have provided for them at your feast.

You see, with Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you get His very best from the start and all the way through, forever.  You get all of Him, from the very first, no waiting for some special offer at the end.  No veggy slicer/peeler can match that!  What’s even better, there is no payment required! No credit card, no shipping cost or extra postage for overnight delivery.  By bearing our sins on the cross, Jesus has paid, in full, the one-time price for you, me, and everyone who would accept His unmatchable offer of redemption and life eternal.

Allow me to change to change the Ronco pitch from “But wait, there’s more,” to “Don’t wait, this no charge to you, for this assurance of life eternal is available for you, right now!” If you haven’t partaken of this yet, won’t you please consider it today? Where you stand with Jesus is where you will stand forever.  What Jesus has done breaks the mold of ‘it’s too good to be true.’ For in fact, it is true!  As the bible says speaking of Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else.” (Acts 4:12)

If you’re still wondering about this, you’re probably not alone.  As one who has accepted the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, let me tell you that even though their doesn’t need to be any more added to His offer, there is.  The ‘more’ I’ve found is true peace in my life.  The ups and downs of my day to day activities are comforted by His presence.  What’s ‘more,’ I found the true purpose in my life, simply serving Jesus each day, in whatever form that takes.  By taking Him at His word by faith, I have an unshakable assurance that He is in control.  What a relief! By learning to trust the Lord more and more, those things that distracted or disrupted my life are in a much more proper perspective.  I know, beyond any doubt, that my forever place is set with Him because of Him.  What more could anyone possibly want knowing that!

As always, thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck


Teach Me to Pray

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To the question, “Why pray?” I wrote that Jesus Himself prayed, concluding that if the Son of God saw value in praying, you and I should as well.  The next question for us to ponder was, “Does anyone listen to my prayers.” Once again, Jesus provides the comforting answer: Yes, prayers are heard in heaven!

Taking these first two examples as being the encouragement to pray, wouldn’t the logical next question be: “How do I pray?”

The disciples of Jesus believed it was. They had followed Jesus for a while and had seen Him go off to pray by Himself many times.  They understood, at least partially, that this was a practice they ought to partake in as well.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

Jesus then answered their request with what we have come to know as the Lord’s prayer:

Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  3Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:2-4)

Many people have been taught this prayer (or something close based upon which Gospel and translation you use) at an early age.  For me, I learned the words, in their proper order, so that I could recite it when asked to.  I have since come to believe that Jesus was after a little more than rote memorization as He answered the disciple’s request to teach them how to pray.

Before I go any further, let me be clear, I am not promoting a formula that must be followed to have our prayers heard.  Rather, I am suggesting that we use the Lord’s Prayer as a guideline.  Please recall in the first of this series about prayer when we stated that prayer is simply a two-way communication between God and the person praying.  Jesus was teaching His followers, both then and now, the great importance of getting oneself prepared to converse with the Almighty.

Thinking along this line, let’s reconsider Jesus’ teaching on how to pray.  First and foremost, prayer is all about us recognizing Who it is we are praying to.  We are not clicking on a name in our phone book, or chatting with a buddy over coffee, but rather coming to speak and listen to the God of the Universe.  Hence, ‘Father’ is a term of deserved respect.  We then recognize God’s perfect holiness when we say ‘hallowed be thy name.’  Jesus is teaching that in order to get our hearts ready to pray, we need to approach God with all the reverence we can muster.

Next Jesus says to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come (other gospels add ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’). Praying this is an admittance on our part that the world in which we live needs God!  All the centuries of humankind following its own will instead of seeking God’s has left this world in a sorry state.

Jesus then emphasizes the need to further personalize our conversation with the Father.  Asking to ‘give us our bread’ is another way of acknowledging that only God can give us what we truly need on a daily basis.

As we state our everyday need of God’s provision, we are then to humbly ask Him to forgive us our sins.  Obviously, this extremely personal point will differ from one person to the next.  Remember, it is our heart position in respect to God that Jesus wants us to recognize.  As we find the perfect forgiveness God extends, we then honor Him by forgiving those who have wronged us. (Easier said than done, I know; but holding on to resentments or unforgiveness only hurts us, not the other person)

Finally, after experiencing the freshness that only God’s forgiveness can bring, we ask God to not lead us into temptation (a more accurate translation of that word may be trials). If we are praying along the lines Jesus instructs us to, we can experience an ever-deepening relationship with our Maker.  Praying as Jesus suggests teaches us to keep things in a clearer perspective.  If we are making an effort to put God first in our lives, I believe He will help us to do so.

Jesus wants you and me to excel in communicating with the Father.  Following His instructions with regard to how we ought to pray will allow us to get as close to God as we desire.  I believe that many of the questions and struggles of life can be best met when we do so with the assurance that can come as a result of prayer.

Why pray? Jesus did! Does anyone really hear my prayers? God does! Want to learn how to pray? Use the outline Jesus provides to develop your personal prayer life!


Pastor Chuck


What was I thinking!

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(The idea for this entry came out of our Saturday morning prayer group as God downloaded it to my wife Betsy’s spirit.  As she shared it with me, I jumped on that wonderful insight to guide my thoughts for this time)

One of my favorite accounts of God doing over-the-top stuff in the Old Testament can be found in 1 Kings Chapter 18.  In this chapter we read about the Prophet Elijah calling out the 400 or so prophets of Baal, one of the main false gods of the time.

The extremely condensed version goes like this: Elijah had become fed up with King Ahab’s leading of the people astray by worshiping this Baal character.  Basically, Elijah tells the king to make a choice, either follow Baal or the God of their ancestors.  He even makes it a visual choice.  Elijah advised Ahab to gather the prophets of the false god and prepare a sacrifice.  If Baal answers their petitions, he will indeed be the god.

Elijah, full of faith in the God of Israel, allows those poor guys to go first.  They prepare the bull on their altar and begin to loudly plead with Baal to do his thing by bringing fire down to consume it.  This goes on for some time which causes Elijah to speculate, tongue in cheek, that perhaps their god is sleeping and can’t hear them.  The ever more frustrated prophets of Baal become greatly agitated and even begin to cut themselves in a show of devotion to the empty deity they are praying to.

Elijah finally says it is his turn.  Just to make it interesting, he tells the Baal followers to douse his sacrifice three times with plenty of water.  They use so much in fact that the Bible says it filled the trench around the altar Elijah had prepared.  As you may have guessed, Elijah then calls of the name of the God of heaven who promptly answers by sending a consuming fire from heaven that burns up both altars with the sacrifices on them.  Elijah then commands the people who saw this powerful display to gather up the 400 hundred prophets of Baal and put them to the sword.

I share all this as introduction to my main point for today, that being what Elijah did next.  You might assume that after an affirming display like he had just witnessed, Elijah would be going all in and all out for God.  Well, don’t assume.  Reading on in the narrative we find Elijah hiding out in the desert, the very next day, afraid for his life after he learned that Ahab’s wife, the evil Queen Jezebel, has sworn to kill Elijah for what he has done before the sun goes down that day.

I can understand the fear Elijah felt, but not so much the pity party he throws for himself.  The Bible says that he came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.  “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4 NIV)

I have struggled with his reaction for quite some time.  How could he so quickly feel as if God was going to leave him alone after what he has just seen done the day before! Obviously, we can’t know what was going on inside Elijah’s head and heart, but perhaps that’s not the point.

No, I believe the point is to relate to Elijah rather than judge what he said.  Now, I haven’t called any fire down from heaven lately, but that’s not to say I haven’t seen God at work doing wonderful things around me.  In fact, I have witnessed God do two healings that should have me shouting about it on the rooftop of our home.

Instead, I find myself at my laptop at 4 am unable to sleep (again) because of the poison ivy covering my right arm and leg.  Using all my willpower not to scratch as I wait for the morning dose of medicine to kick in, I find myself lamenting what I am currently going through.  My itchy limbs have all put driven the mighty work of God from my mind.

OK, being troubled by some nasty poison ivy doesn’t quite compare with a queen swearing to kill me before the sun goes down today, but I hope you catch my drift.  I, like most of us if we’re to be honest, am self-centered to the core.  My current situation almost always takes position in the forefront on my mind, whatever it is.

I’ve been at this Christian life for quite a while now but it’s times like this that make me wonder what, if anything, I have learned along the way.  I stop myself right there! For this is yet another veiled ‘pour me’ line of thinking.  Though I’m no Rhodes Scholar or Mensa candidate, I have learned much on this journey as a follower of Christ.  Most importantly, that God is faithful even when I am not at the top of my game.

This morning, that realization leads me to once again ask our always faithful Lord to forgive my self-indulgence on the pity pot.  My prayer is a simple one, and you may join me if feel so moved:

Dear Jesus, Thank you for all you have done for me and around me.  Please forgive my shortness of sight and thinking.  Help me to stayed better focused on you, the Great Sustainer of my life.  Give me the courage and opportunity to speak often of your Greatness.  Help me to rise above current circumstance that wants to distract or discourage me.  May I never forget how much you love me, itchy limbs and all.

Though I know Jesus knows me by name, I sign this for you, Faithful Reader,

Pastor Chuck

It’s Not Rocket Science

Image result for rocket scienceimage courtesy of wikipedia

“It’s not rocket science.” How many times have you heard or used that one? I drag this line out every year with my new crew of summer work study painters.  Painting, I point out, is all about being neat and having the proper materials while using good technique.  Certainly a much easier undertaking than the science of rockets.   As I rethink this old favorite, it makes me wonder what rocket science is all about.  It must be incredibly difficult for everything else in the world seems to is easier to do/understand than it is.

I have used the comparison between rocket science and faith as well.  Though technology was still centuries away, if available in the Apostle Paul’s day he might  have tried this line.  In the letter to the Romans, he spells out with great clarity the ‘how’ of salvation: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9 NIV).

No degree in advanced learning required for this.  If you can say the words that Jesus is your Savior while believing in your heart He is who He claimed to be, the issue of where you will spend eternity is settled.

This straight-forward declaration seems almost too good to be true, but this is one time when the truth behind the claim is everything it says it is.  Yet, if it is as easy as it seems, why aren’t more people following Jesus as their Lord?  The answer, it seems to me, lies in the fact that the practice of accepting this truth is more difficult.  Maybe even more difficult than rocket science.

In my opinion, it is quite easy to mouth the words, “Jesus is Lord.” They can sound sincere regardless if you mean them or not.  The difficulty arises from the second part of Paul’s explanation of salvation: believing in your heart that Jesus was brought back to life by the Father.  Our human experience tells us that the body, once dead, remains that way.  Few if any of us have seen a corpse come back to life.  The first hurdle, then, is to believe that someone deceased three days can be reanimated.  A rational brain would have to rank this up there with rocket science.

As challenging as this can be, the even harder concept is the ‘why’ of God’s salvation plan.  I have talked with many folks who put their hope in doing more good than bad as the basis of their hope for eternity in heaven.  I see the appeal in this as it ultimately puts the individual in control of their eternal fate.

Unfortunately, this less than rocket science approach discounts the magnitude and magnificence of God.  It skews the balance toward us and away from Him.  If God is who He says He is, perfectly holy, then we have no business attempting to earn our way into His presence by having a balance sheet showing we’ve done more good than bad.  Here’s the bottom line: He’s perfect, I’m not and I cannot change this truth.

Thankfully He does! Because rocket science is beneath the heart and intellect of our Creator, He knows the woeful state we are in without Him.  Because He loves us, shortcomings and all, He has provided the perfect solution: Jesus Christ.  Paul describes it this way: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus, the Perfect Son of God, willingly bore the sins of the world in his body as He was crucified.  By acknowledging this truth we admit our own failings as we recognize the necessity of God’s salvation being worked out in this way.  Believing that God raised His Son Jesus back to life is the final piece.  It provides us the assurance of God’s intentions and is His invitation to absolutely everyone to partake of His loving grace and mercy.

Accepting His love and forgiveness is not rocket science, thank God!

Pastor Chuck

Peace by Peace: The Full Armor of God

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I put my armor on first thing today.  No, I’m not re-enacting a joust or trying to blend in at a Renaissance Faire, I’m referring to the full armor of God that the Apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 6:10-18

It might seem peculiar to some that the God of peace, love and forgiveness would also make a soldier’s armor necessary.  However, if you have been a follower of Jesus Christ for any length of time, you know all too well the battle that rages on around you.  Thankfully, nothing about this struggle is a surprise to the Almighty.  Therefore, He gives us access to all we need to carry on each day.

Paul knew full well the spiritual battle that was happening in his time.  He used the familiar picture of a Roman, dressed in full battle regalia, to describe what and how God was providing for our spiritual protection.  The Apostle then describes why we need it:

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12) NIV

Paul establishes that there is an unseen battle going on around us and that we do have a common enemy, the devil.  Not to give the old liar too much credit, but he is a powerful and nasty adversary who wants nothing more than to cause strife and division, especially among those who profess faith in Christ.

I am eternally grateful that our God is more powerful than Satan.  (Spoiler alert: if you read the Bible all the way to the end, you’ll see it proved forever!) Having said that, the Bible also teaches that the devil is still active in this world.  Peter describes him as a roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Knowing this, putting on the full protection of God’s armor seems like a no-brainer.

Let’s go through the various pieces of this God-given armor to see how they work to protect us.

The belt of truth is the first piece.  Whereas if may sound weird to us to put a belt on first, in this case it makes sense.  A Roman soldier put this piece of his armor on first because all the rest of his gear would be attached to it.  This holds true for our spiritual protection as well.  We must be able to ‘wear’ the truth of who God is if we are going to be able to stand at all in the battles we encounter.

With apologies to those who hold that truth is a relative thing, the truth of God is all encompassing and unchanging.  God is who He says He is and does what He promises to do.

The truth is that Jesus is the Savior of the world; there is no other way to heaven accept through His death and resurrection.  This has to be firmly buckled into our being if we are to put on the rest of the armor of God.

The breastplate of righteousness then attaches to the belt of truth.  A soldier’s breastplate protected his vital organs from harm.  This piece of godly armor does the same for us.  Righteousness, a term that sometimes gets thrown around in Christendom, simply means to be in right standing with God.  The position of being righteous in God’s eyes is necessary because He is perfect and without sin.  I, for one, am not.  The bible says He imputes righteousness to believers and I could never hope to be in His presence if He didn’t.  Because of this breastplate He provides, I am protected from His wrath.  God hates sin; the breastplate of righteousness keeps me shielded from the eternal consequences of it because He provides it to those who have put their faith in Him.

Verse 15 of Ephesians Chapter 6 then tells us that our feet are fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  I love the fact that this is fitted to each of us personally.  God’s peace, which we cannot fully grasp, is tailor made in such a way by the Master that even though we don’t understand it, we can live and move about with the assurance of the peace that salvation brings.

Once our shoes are on, we are to take up the shield of faith because by carrying it we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  The Roman soldier’s shield was curved in such a way that things would bounce off it.  As we carry our shield of faith, the lies and deceptions our enemy throws at us will also be deflected, bringing us no harm.

With our bodies now protected, we are instructed to put on the helmet of salvation.  Helmets, of course, are designed to protect the head.  The helmet of salvation does the same in a spiritual sense.  By donning it, we are to keep in the forefront of our mind the salvation God has given us.  By staying mindful of the of the grace of God that has been poured out on us, we are better able to stay focused on Him.  As we go through our days in this way, we are far less likely to fall victim to wrong thinking of the deceitfulness of the world around us.

As we are now fully clothed in the armor of God, we are then to pick up the only weapon we need, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17).  Much as a sword was the common weapon of the foot soldier in Paul’s day, the word of God is for us.  However, this sword has no equal.  In fact, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews describes it thus: The word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), God’s infallible Word is unmatched by any other weapon or tool.  It contains the very essence of God, making it supreme to all things.  What weapon would we possibly want to carry in its place?

Paul concludes this teaching of the full armor of God by reminding us all that once clothed in it, we must never forget to pray.  The list of what we could pray about is endless, but in this context, I would recommend praying to have awareness of the battles going on around us, and the wisdom to now when to engage the enemy and when to wait for re-enforcements.  It is then a very good idea to be praying for others that are on the battlefront, that they too are fully protected and moving within the will of God.

There you have it, my friends.  The full armor of God.  As was recommended to me years ago, I pass on to you.  Get into the practice of thinking about putting on this armor every day.  As you do, consider what each piece represents and how God has supplied it for you and the specific battles and struggles you are up against.  Remember, He who has made this armor is perfect.  What He makes is also perfect and perfectly molded to fit your needs.  All that is left is for us to put it on.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck