Protecting the Gospel

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.

Galatians 1:6

Desertion. That’s a pretty tough word. It brings up all sorts of thoughts of abandoned families or soldiers who abandon their posts. It speaks of failure. It speaks of giving up or giving in.

This is the word Paul uses to describe people who add something to Jesus in order to be right before God. He doesn’t just say that they are misguided. He doesn’t say that they had made a mistake. No, he says that they had deserted Jesus who had died for them.

How precious this gospel is! It is life to us. It is the only way to God. In fact, the gospel is not just a teaching to believe. He is a person. He is Jesus. No addition is necessary. Any addition is worse than unnecessary. It is a betrayal.

Our encouragement today? Protect the gospel. Protect that relationship from any addition. It is Jesus alone that we trust for salvation. It is Jesus alone that we live our life in and live our life for. Let nothing come between you and Jesus. His is a relationship worth protecting.

Something to think about,
Pastor John

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You Bought a Coffee Shop! What?!

Crimson Anchor Coffee Roasters - Home | Facebook

Yes, Pastor John and Amy bought a coffee shop! The usual response is – Congratulations! Why did you do that? There is excitement, but there is also a certain confusion. Why would a pastor buy a coffee shop? For our devotional thought this week, let me answer that question in three ways.

Glorify God

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10 –

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

This is what we long to do. We long to glorify God in everything we do. Since we feel led to invest in our community in this new way, glorifying God is what we will seek to do. A shop on the square will let us glorify God by supporting the other community members around us. By doing the best job we can, we can glorify God by being an asset to the community. We will also seek to glorify God by being ambassadors for Jesus while serving the community in this new way.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul was talking about the difference between what was forbidden and what truly blesses us. What made it a blessing? The things that truly bless are the things that are done for the glory of God. So, this new endeavor will be one which seeks to glorify God. In quality coffee, in quality service, and in great conversations we will strive for Jesus to be glorified.

Be a light

Jesus said…

 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

I (John) challenge our people to be light in their personal world all the time. I’m a preacher. It’s what we do. Although I get to do that on Sundays and Wednesdays through our services, I hear Jesus’ words about having our light under a basket and it challenges me to be in my community as well as in my church. Yes, I can do that through getting involved in a community group or volunteering in some way. However, as God closed some of those doors this year, the open door to this way to be a light kept opening up. I was left with this question: Do I put my light under a bushel while I wait for the world’s circumstances to change, or do I walk through the opportunities that God puts before me? I want that light to shine. So, here we walk.

There is something about challenging God’s people to do something (be a light) that makes me ask this question: How will they know how to do that unless they see it being done? This, too, is being a light. So, if I am going to talk about being a light in family life, work life, and community life, then I want to live it out with my people. I can’t live in an ivory tower dispensing wisdom from on high. I must live out what I am preaching in a very real way. If I can do that in the community, all the better!

Be in the community

This isn’t a career change. It is an extension of who we are as believers and as a pastor’s family. Pastors are not just ‘wide-eyed’ idealists. That type of idealist is not who we are, and mere idealism is not what the truth of God is. The truth of God (to put it simply) isa different set of values that determine what is important in your life.  It is a different way of thinking about this life. The truth of God is a centering of our life around Jesus and making what is important to Him grow in importance to us. Since it is a different set of values, our culture doesn’t reinforce such thinking. This makes me think – if anyone is going to see what that means in everyday life, it has to be lived out in front of them. Pastors don’t have to just be people who tell others how to make Jesus important in their lives. Pastors also can show it. Living life for Jesus is essential. It’s what I preach. It must be what I live. Finding ways to take Jesus further into my community is a clear next step.

Paul says,

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20

All Christians are ambassadors. The desire to reach out and see the people in our community come to know the transformed life found in Jesus must be our heart. As Amy and I have prayed about that in our own ministry, we have become convinced that ambassadors live in and are active in the country in which they are stationed. So, that is what we long to do – to live in and be active in my community so that we can be ambassadors for Jesus. We want to appeal to the people in our community to be reconciled to God. This is the door that God has opened up for us to love people more in the name of Jesus.  How could we not walk through it?

The coffee shop is a new opportunity to shine for Jesus in love of others. There, we can provide a listening ear, get to know and support fellow believers, and have an open door to minister and share in the center of our community. Here is my question today: in what way are you seeking to glorify God and reach out in the name of Jesus? What doors are open to you? Will you go through them? It is so easy right now to see the doors that are closed to us. However, we must be always looking for the doors that are open. When we find them, we must go through. That has always been the path of faith. Through what doors will you go for Jesus?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Our Redeeming God

Today I want to think a little deeper about our struggle with grace. In fact, I think that this part of grace is something with which we all struggle. I know that some people struggle with the fact that God’s grace is for them. However, that isn’t the root of our struggle. I know that some people struggle with adding works to it. Yet, I don’t think that is the root of our struggle either. I think almost every one of us struggle with the how all-encompassing it is.

Think about it. Before we become followers of Jesus, many of us struggle with wanting to climb up to God on some ladder of our own righteousness. When we are there, we then struggle with the truth that God will receive us ONLY by grace. Yet, in an ironic twist, once we get over that hurdle and become His followers we find ourselves again struggling with trying to work for God’s approval. At that moment we are struggling with the idea that God STILL receives us by grace alone. Then comes some personal failure. In that moment we struggle believing that we CONTINUE to be covered by His grace. We say things like, “God will not forgive that,” or “I need to make this right before talking to God.”

Oh, such struggles! Yet, God’s Word is clear – God’s grace is abundant! If you read the Scripture above, did you underline the phrase, “and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ”? Those two words – reign and abundant – describe the great breadth of God’s grace toward us.

Abundant describes how much. It is a grace that is enough to completely cover our sin. It is not like a cheap blanket that only covers part of you. You don’t have to pick between covering up your feet or covering up your head. It is enough.

Reign describes how powerful. The gift of righteousness is a powerful, unstoppable gift. It cannot be stopped by some scheme of man. It cannot be undone by the demons of hell. Grace reigns supreme. It will cover you.

So, wherever you find yourself – before responding to Christ’s invitation to follow Him, in the midst of following Him everyday, or coming back to Him after a period of foolish rebellion – know that His grace is sufficient to cover you. There is no work that you must do to receive His grace. Just live in it. Just give your life to praise Him for it. Just marvel in the grace of God that covers you today!

Something to think about,
Pastor John

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The Unity and Consistency of God

What Does Deuteronomy 6:4 Mean?


Although I am aware that Deuteronomy 6:4 is talking about the fact that there is only one true God, it gets me thinking about how often I treat God as if He is several beings. Let me explain… When I pray, I think about God’s love. When I feel guilty, I think about God’s holiness. When I worry about the future, I am NOT thinking about God’s power.

It isn’t unusual for us to feel especially close to one of God’s attributes during a time of great need. Yet, we have to be careful that we don’t make that attribute the only way that we think about God. It can be tempting to only see God in that single way. We see Him as loving when we need love. When we want justice, we emphasize His holiness. Yet, does God’s love ever come to us without His holiness? Does His holiness ever act apart from His love?

Perhaps it is easier for us to think of God in simplistic terms. It makes us feel safe. But that’s not really God, is it? He loves when He expresses His holiness. He establishes holiness as He is expressing His love. God is unified in His being. He is not inconsistent. He is always Himself.

Would we really want it any other way? If God wasn’t always Himself, wouldn’t that make Him capricious? Wouldn’t He then be moody or untrustworthy? Wouldn’t He then be like us? What kind of God is that? That is a God who changes on a whim. That’s not the God of the Bible. Nor is it the God we would want. We wouldn’t want a God who turns on and off His attributes.

Consider this… how wondrous is it to know that God is always God? He doesn’t change. He doesn’t lie. He is who He says He is. Doesn’t this give us a point of reference? Doesn’t this give us a point to interpret and understand our life? Doesn’t this give us confidence to face uncertainty and an understanding of the life we live? We may not realize it, but all of life is based upon who we think God is. We make moral decisions based upon that fact. We determine if our past decisions were right or wrong based upon that fact. We face the future with confidence based upon how we understand God.

Seeing God as wavering or inconsistent is going to change how we interpret our life. Essentially, we will see God as untrustworthy. How can faith grow in that type of environment? How can faith be strong if the object of our faith cannot be depended on? My encouragement – build your faith and understanding of God upon the reality that God doesn’t merely feel or have His attributes. He is His attributes. He is love, holiness, power, and the rest all of the time. It may not give easy simple answers to the problems of life. But it will give dependable ones. God’s consistent character will call you to trust Him. It has always been how the faithful people of God have built their trust. It will help us face our life everyday.

Something to think about,
Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life

Psalm 46:10 declares that we should, “Cease striving and know that God is God.” What can we learn about having confidence in God from this Psalm? Let’s think deeply about trusting God in the midst of the storm.

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life At Calvary!

Psalm 46:10 declares that we should, “Cease striving and know that God is God.” What can we learn about having confidence in God from this Psalm? Let’s think deeply about trusting God in the midst of the storm. On Android … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life
  2. At Calvary – Ep 33 – Fighting without Sin? Is It Possible?
  3. At Calvary – Ep 32 – A Crazy Man Praises God
  4. At Calvary – Ep 31 – Who Cares about Political Conventions?
  5. At Calvary – Ep 30 – Backpacking with My Youngest
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A Love That NEVER Changes

Levi Spires on Twitter: "Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all  peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the  LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD! #Psalms

Sometimes, theology seems dry and stale.  Take the issue of God’s eternity.  It is a great truth that God is eternal, yet it seems to just be intellectual knowledge for us. How are we supposed to apply the eternal nature of God?  What is it supposed to do for us? 

The psalmists knew.  We read Psalm 117 on Sunday. The psalmist knew that because of God’s eternal nature, we can always trust what He has said! We see in Psalm 41 the great confidence of the believer in the midst of great struggle.  He knew that God’s eternal nature was not just information to be digested.  That eternal nature is a game changer!  We see in Psalm 103 the implication of God’s eternal nature.  His love is from everlasting to everlasting!

What type of love does God have toward us?  It is a love that has existed as long as God has existed.  It is a love that will last as long as God lasts.  It is not a fickle love.  It is an enduring love.  Are you ever tempted to think that God’s love is like ours?  Do you think that God’s love waxes and wanes with your performance?  Do you live under the constant pressure that God’s love will suddenly disappear because you haven’t been good enough? That may be how people love, but the eternal nature of God tells us that His love is different.  The Psalm says that the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.  How amazing is that!  His love is not an on again, off again kind of thing.  He is dependable.  He is trustworthy.

I read recently that God describes Himself as love (1 John 4:8, 16).  Although we can provoke Him to anger (Deuteronomy 4:25; 1 Kings 14:9; Isaiah 65:3), God is love.  He doesn’t just feel love.  He doesn’t just express love.  He is love.  This love of God is essential to His character.  It is bound up in His eternity. He has always been love. He always will be love.

Let God’s eternal nature flow over you.  The Old Testament believer did.  He trusted that nature when life was hard.  He trusted that God would always be God.  He would be love.  He would be eternal.  Believers can know that God will always be there.  He will always care for them.

Will that be your encouragement today?  Sometimes we are tempted to let our current circumstances be the lens through which we interpret the love of God. God’s eternity invites you to do the opposite: interpret your current circumstance through the enduring reality that God is love. Will you let God’s eternal nature reinforce for you the knowledge that God’s love will always be there for you?  Will you live in that love today?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 33 – Fighting without Sin? Is It Possible?

Can Christians argue? Can they argue and still honor Jesus? What does a Christ honoring disagreement look like? Let’s talk about Christians “throwing down”!

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life At Calvary!

Psalm 46:10 declares that we should, “Cease striving and know that God is God.” What can we learn about having confidence in God from this Psalm? Let’s think deeply about trusting God in the midst of the storm. On Android … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life
  2. At Calvary – Ep 33 – Fighting without Sin? Is It Possible?
  3. At Calvary – Ep 32 – A Crazy Man Praises God
  4. At Calvary – Ep 31 – Who Cares about Political Conventions?
  5. At Calvary – Ep 30 – Backpacking with My Youngest
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Letting Character Lead

Several years ago I went to a conference called, ‘Building Men for the Body of Christ’. At the beginning of the conference it struck me how the concern was not so much for ‘doing’ something for our families and our churches as much as ‘being’ something for them.

Jesus said, 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:3-9

I see Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 as very helpful when I think about that.  Although the folks described in verses 3-7 will be doing things, Jesus focuses on who they are as people.  They are poor in spirit.  They are gentle.  They are merciful.  These folks are something, and the things they do flow out of that.  It makes me wonder how often I flip that around and ‘do’ things trying (and sometimes I am not really trying at all) to become them.

Have you ever thought about how making ‘doing’ such a priority is a form of legalism?  It’s a seductive legalism that creeps into our lives that makes ‘doing’ as our focus. It becomes the thing that we believe makes us a good person. We go to meetings. We get involved in ministry.  We go to Bible studies and fellowships and the like in order to ‘do’ the Christian life.  The seduction is that ‘doing’ replaces ‘being’.  The legalism is that we raise these activities to God as our means of acceptance and love instead of simply the shed blood of Jesus. We are performing, and as long as we feel our performance is okay we feel accepted.

Yet, like all seductions, once we are fully hooked we discover the pain of the lie.  ‘Doing’ becomes something that we do without ‘being’.  It becomes empty.  It replaces fellowship with Jesus.  It becomes a burden, a chore.  Then, we begin chasing a forever elusive acceptance.  It becomes not enough to be a child of the King.  We have to be a child who studies or serves or leads or some other spiritual activity.  We lose our sense of God’s pleasure with His child.  There are only two destinations to this delusion: pharisaism or burn out.

This week consider whether you have been majoring on ‘doing’ things to be approved by Christ or whether you have been ‘being’ His child whose life flows out of who you are.  Be a child of God.  Know His love.  Then, simply live out of that character!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 32 – A Crazy Man Praises God

I like the Scriptures for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, I enjoy a passage just because of what the original writer was experiencing. Psalm 34 is just such a Psalm. It is a word of praise from a crazy person!

On Android you can find past episodes here:

Listen on Google Play Music

Of course, you can always find all of the episodes right here…

At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life At Calvary!

Psalm 46:10 declares that we should, “Cease striving and know that God is God.” What can we learn about having confidence in God from this Psalm? Let’s think deeply about trusting God in the midst of the storm. On Android … Continue reading →
  1. At Calvary – Ep 34 – Having Confidence in God in Everyday Life
  2. At Calvary – Ep 33 – Fighting without Sin? Is It Possible?
  3. At Calvary – Ep 32 – A Crazy Man Praises God
  4. At Calvary – Ep 31 – Who Cares about Political Conventions?
  5. At Calvary – Ep 30 – Backpacking with My Youngest
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Are We Preparing?

Why is it that some people seem to be always ready to lend a hand, help a friend, touch a life; and for others it is work? Why is it that others are always grumpy, caustic, or quick with a slicing comment? Why is it that some people always have a verse, poem, or song for every occasion?

Haven’t you wondered about such things? Well, I have stumbled upon the answer. It isn’t always that they are just naturally gifted in helping, being cranky, or remembering poetry. Instead, many of these people have practiced (sometimes on purpose and sometimes through the influence of someone else) a response to life until it has become second nature. I find that the helpful person has been brought up to be helpful by a parent, grandparent, or mentor. I find that the caustic person usually has other caustic people around them as friends or family. They get lots of practice! The person who always has a verse or proverb has them because they use verses, poetry and proverbs for themselves regularly.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NIV)

Hebrews 12:2

The Boy Scouts have a motto: Be prepared. In our Christian life, applying that motto sometimes seems elusive. We can’t pack a backpack full of love or patience (oh how I wish we could!).We ask, “How can I be prepared to be loving?” Or we ask, “How do I prepare more patience?” The answer is to make being loving something you practice. For patience we need to make counting to 10 something we do everyday. Over time, it will become more than an exercise. It will become second nature. It will become part of our character and not something we have to take out of a spiritual drawer somewhere.

Hebrews 12 encourages us to do that in the area of faith. Pointing back to the heroes of the faith that he highlighted in Hebrews 11, we are encouraged to practice something – fix our eyes on Jesus. How does a person grow in faith? They make Jesus the One they listen to and focus on. Faith isn’t just something that comes naturally. Faith is something that we practice over and over. How do we prepare to live in faith? We prepare by intentionally looking at Jesus. We listen to Him. We copy how He followed the Father. By practicing, faith becomes our first choice rather than our last one.

So today: decide what character quality of Christ you know that you need to put into your life and begin practicing. Practice love or patience or faith or whatever quality in which you need to grow. Doing so will prepare you for what life brings you next! Practicing turns our struggles into triumphs. So, let us prepare to walk with Jesus.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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