What if you CAN know for sure?

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I ask a lot of people the same question. “If I could show you from the Bible how you could know for sure that you would go to Heaven when you die, would that interest you?” I get a lot of different answers. The most recent response: “No, not really.”

The young lady and I had been talking for a few minutes before I asked the question. Our conversation had been pleasant and polite, so I felt at liberty to ask one more question before accepting her answer as final. “Could I give you two or three things to think about that might change your mind about that?” With a smile she said, “Sure.” Having her permission, I shared with her some truths that I have found many people connect with.

First, we are more than just a body. We crave food because we are physical beings. We long for meaningful relationships because we are social beings. We seek spiritual experiences because we are spiritual beings. Most people have a sense that there is something more to life than what they see. We have a spiritual nature, and it gives us the capacity to have a relationship with God.

The young lady indicated her agreement, so I continued.

This spiritual nature not only gives us the capacity to know God, but it also makes us accountable to Him. The God who made us will one day hold us accountable for the life He has given us. That’s a problem, and it’s everyone’s problem – mine included. If I were to stand before God and be judged for the life I have lived up to this point, I would be found guilty. God has given us ten simple rules to live by, the Ten Commandments, and I am guilty of breaking them. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who isn’t honest enough to admit that they’ve lied, stolen, and disrespected his parents. All but a few have admitted that they’ve used the name of Jesus Christ as a curse word.

Frankly, this usually changes the tone of the conversation, and it did on this occasion. We were connecting on a more serious level as I explained that, if I’m guilty of these things (and I am), then I deserve whatever condemnation comes with committing them. It is unreasonable to think that God would give us his laws and not hold us accountable for breaking them. That being true, I must either prepare to receive what justice demands, or I need a way of forgiveness – a way to restore a right relationship with God.

Pointing to the Bible portion I had given her, I said, “The Bible tells us that God has made a way for us to have His forgiveness. Amazingly, it doesn’t cost us anything. It is offered to everyone as a gift. That’s why I think it would be worth your time to at least consider what the Bible says before you make up your mind.” She said she would, and I am praying that she does. In fact, that’s my prayer for you as you read this article.

God wants you to know. The Bible says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

What if you can know that you will spend eternity in Heaven? The following link will allow you to download a free copy of the book “Done” by Cary Schmidt. It is a short read that explains what God has done so that you can know for sure that Heaven is your home. I hope that you will take the time to download and read it.

David Zimmerman

http://caryschmidt.com/free-ebook-done/

Vision 2015

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The final command of Jesus Christ to the church He established during His three years of ministry is found in Matthew 28:19-20.
Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

    The word “Go” tells us that Jesus was giving them a mission, a cause, a purpose to fulfill. There was something they had to do, and it required them to go.

    The word “ye” tells us that He addressed them as members of one body. They were to do this together, accountable to the Lord AND to one another for fulfilling this command.

    The word “teach” tells us that He had given them a message by which this mission could be fulfilled.

    Jesus gave them a vision of being Members with a Message on a Mission.

You are invited to come discover with us what it means to be members of a local church, entrusted with the message of Christ, and charged with the privilege and responsibility of sharing it with others. Through the end of March, our Adult Bible Study will be “reDiscovering Church.” Each Sunday morning at 10:00am we will be discovering God’s purpose for the church and how it benefits our lives. Our Sunday morning sermon series at 11:00 through the Epistle to the Ephesians will reinforce important aspects of Vision 2015.

I am looking forward to seeing how God will use this vision to deepen our roots, grow our faith, and use us to make a difference in our community as we live out the vision of being Members with a Message on a Mission.

The Other Side of “No.”

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Adam and Eve lived in a Garden full of YES, with only one “no.”
“God, can I eat of that tree?” Yes. “How about that one over there.” God smiled. “Yes.” Can I take a nap under that tree?” Yes. How about …” Yes.
A Garden full of YES, with only one “no.”
“But that tree in the center of the Garden…” It was more of a statement than a question. God clearly, firmly, lovingly, said “No.”
A garden full of YES, with only one “no.” And Satan leveraged that one “no” to pry open the heart of Eve to entertain a single doubt. Could that one “no” be keeping them from something “good”?
“Eve, your eyes will be opened … to know good…”
“Adam, look. This fruit is good. It tastes good. How could we have ever thought that this was bad for us????”

The first bite of sin almost always taste good in the same way the first taste of freedom almost always tastes good to the puppy who wriggles his way under the fence. But outside the fence there is no warm blanket set out for him to curl up in. There is no bowl of fresh, clean water or dish of yummy food. There is cold, and thirst, and hunger, and loneliness. And danger. We have seen him, the puppy staggering into the road, dazedly walking into the path of oncoming cars.

How could we ever have thought this was bad for us?

Adam and Eve turned their backs on a Garden full of goodness. Satan convinced them that they had to find out for themselves what lay on the other side of that one “no.”

Shame. Blame. Denial. Hatred. Sorrow. Death. Hell.

How could we have ever thought this was good for us?

God could have responded by becoming cross with them. Instead, God responded with the Cross.

Coats of skins.
Blood.
Sacrifice.

The Cross.
Innocence made to bear shame.
The Guiltless made to suffer blame. Mine. Yours. The whole world.
Denial. (“We have no king but Caesar!)
Hatred. (“Crucify Him! Crucify HIM!”)
Sorrow. (My God, My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?)
Death.
Hell.

What we find on the other side of “no” is the Cross.

Through the shame and the blame, the hollow laughter and gut-wrenching sobs, the MORE that always turns out to be so much LESS than we expected, is a path that leads us to just one place. Calvary. The Cross. And through the Cross, the way back to God. To grace. To goodness. To peace. To joy. To triumph.

No wonder Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

More times than I care to remember in my walk with God, I have found myself on the other side of “no.” I have experienced my share of the sorrow and shame that comes from being blinded to all the “Yes” of God by one momentarily, all-consuming, pleasure-promising “no.”

“I know I shouldn’t get angry like this, but it feels so good to let it all out.”
“I know I shouldn’t _______________ …”

Wounds. Shame. Loss. Loneliness. Slavery.

How could I have ever thought this was good for me?
God, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to turn.

Always, the answer is the same.

The Cross. The other side of “no” only leads to one way back to God. To His grace. His goodness. His joy.

The Cross. Where the sinless Son of God died for my sins. Where the guiltless Son of God bore my shame. Where the Lamb of God poured out His blood to take away my sins and bring me back to God.

It’s not a dream. It’s not what I deserve. It’s just what God has done to rescue us from our sins and ourselves.

So, today, I begin my morning gazing at Calvary. I remember all the shame my Savior suffered there, every tortured moment He endured to rescue me from the other side of “no.” I look beyond the Cross to the empty tomb. It’s life. It’s victory. It’s joy. I look up into the welcoming face of my risen Savior and ask Him for the grace to live this day in the enjoyment of His “yes.”

And He says, “Yes!”

Because you do not have to wait until you are on the other side of “no” to experience the grace, goodness, freedom, and joy of Jesus Christ found at the Cross.

The Inevitable and the Impossible

Offended Again

In Luke 17:1, Jesus made a statement that probably surprised no one. He said, “It is impossible but that offenses will come.” Jesus simply acknowledged something that we all know to be true. We will offend, and we will be offended. Others will sin against us, and we will sin against others. It is inevitable in a fallen world. I’ve done it. I will do it again. And so will you.

Pastor James stated it bluntly: “For in many things, we offend all.” (James 3:2) He was not saying that we offend everyone. He was saying that everyone offends, and we do it in many things. We do it in our friendships. We do it in our marriages. We do it with our children. It is an inevitable part of life. Not that we excuse it. We don’t. Nothing in Scripture allows that. Every sin is to be confessed, repented of and made right. No offense, once brought to light, should be swept under the rug. Having acknowledged that, James’ blunt assessment is in perfect agreement with the words of Jesus. In this world, offenses will come. It is a truth that should surprise no one.

However, Jesus said something in Luke 17 that startled everyone. When you get a chance, read the entire account in Luke 17:1-6. In verse 4, we read these words, “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Period. End of matter. Not just the first time, or even the second time, but up to and including the seventh time. In a single day. “Forgive him.”

To a man, the disciples said, “No way! None of us have that much faith!” Lord, increase our faith!
The disciples rightly understood that the kind of forgiveness Jesus called them to demonstrate was beyond their capacity to give. It couldn’t be done apart from faith. Forgiving like that wasn’t something they could do alone, but only in dependence upon the one who had forgiven them.

The truth is, there is not enough grace in any of us to forgive like that, but there is enough grace in Jesus. And that is the point. If we respond to life’s hurts like everyone around us, we surprise no one. But when in faith we extend more grace than anyone expects of us, we frequently surprise everyone, including ourselves. We realize that such grace didn’t originate with us. We found it in Him.

When it comes to forgiveness, faith equips us to deal with the inevitable and do the impossible. May we, with the disciples pray, “Lord, increase our faith!”

What does it mean for Christ to be preeminent in all things?

AbvtitleWhat does it mean to give Jesus Christ preeminence in all things? The answer to that question will be as varied as our individual experiences. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been dealing with an annoyingly persistent automated phone message. Each time I answered the call, I responded to the prompt indicating my rejection of the call. On Friday, I had had enough. I pressed the number that connected me with a live operator. By the time the operator answered, my blood pressure had raised a few degrees. My voice was harsh. My responses were curt and agitated. Thirty minutes and three operators later, I had passed from agitated to angry, and I was dangerously close to rudeness.

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t Christlike. I am sure that it never occurred to any of the people I spoke with that I was a Christian. About midway through my interchange with the fourth operator, the Holy Spirit injected a question into the conversation. In clear, unmistakable terms, He said to me, “Where does Jesus fit in to this phone call?” His grace was totally absent from my words. His peace was totally absent from my heart. In much less time than it takes me to type this, I was brought to the humbling realization that my “problem,” not Jesus, had become preeminent.

After a quick, inaudible prayer of confession, I interrupted the lady on the other end. “Ma’am? May I say something please? I’m sorry. I’ve been angry and rude. It was uncalled for. You don’t deserve this. I know you’re doing your best to help me. I apologize.”

When I hung up a few minutes later, the reason for my call was still unresolved, but a bigger problem had been exposed. It had nothing to with anyone but me. I had let something other than Jesus be preeminent. My challenge, and yours, is to insure that when that happens – and it will – we respond quickly to make it right. Otherwise, the vision of His preeminence becomes nothing more than an empty religious concept with no reality in our lives.

Left to Live in a Flawed World

We all face the same dilemma. We live in a world that does not possess the perfection with which God originally created it. It is marred by sin, and our lives are touched every day by its brokenness. This flawed condition is responsible for every hassle, hardship, and heartache that we experience. From the mundane to the tragic, its brokenness has a way of invading our lives. It brings conflict into our families. It threatens our fellowship. It can make our work seem like drudgery and our lives, at times, seem unbearable.
That’s not very encouraging, I know, but it is true. However, there is good news.

God knows the flawed nature of this world.

More to the point, He knows who you are, where you live, and what you are dealing with. He knows every detail, and He cares. No, he doesn’t shelter us from all the hassles, hurts, heartaches, and hardships that come gushing out of the cracks of a fallen creation. But He does love us, and He has a good purpose for all that He allows. [Romans 8:28]

God’s grace is available to us in abundant supply for every circumstance we face.

There is sustaining grace to get us through them. And, there is transforming grace to change us and perfect the work of Christ in our lives. In His love, God knows that we are not yet all that He created us to be. He knows where sin lurks in our hearts. He sees how it hurts us and hurts others. Out of his great love for us, God uses the very brokenness of this world to expose our neediness and then offers us the grace we need to overcome.

Left to live in this flawed world, God requires us to give to others that which we receive from Him: grace.

Forgiving grace. Patient grace. Helping grace. Enduring grace. Not because they deserve it, but because they need it. And as they see His grace shining through the cracks of our own flawed lives, we show them that life in this broken world is not about us. It’s not even about them. It’s about Him. We point them to the only One who really has that which we all need, God’s amazing grace.

And isn’t that why God leaves us here, so that we might point others to Him and His grace?

Tribute to a Mother’s Love and Faith

Motherhood is a precious gift from God. I think that is why we find the stories of those whose lives were shaped by both a mother’s love and her faith so inspiring.  Such mothers are not as rare as we might imagine.  It has been my privilege to know some of them.  Charlotte was one.

As a young mother with a new daughter in the home, Charlotte was diagnosed with cancer.  As the gravity of her condition settled upon her, Charlotte took the matter to God.  Out of the depths of a mother’s love, she asked God to let her live long enough to raise her daughter.  I still recall the look on Charlotte’s face as she told me, very matter-of-factly, “And Pastor, God answered my prayer.”

Charlotte shared this with me when she was again battling cancer.  At the time, she knew that the outcome of her battle would not be the same, and she was content with that knowledge.   God had extended her life once, giving her far more years than she had asked of Him.  She not only lived long enough to raise her daughter, but to invest in the lives of her grandchildren.

The selflessness of Charlotte’s prayer, the depths of her love, and the reality of her faith was evident in the closing days of her life.  At her mother’s side, selflessly ministering to her needs, was the daughter whose existence had prompted the young mother to pray as she did.  Later, as I had time to reflect upon that which I had witnessed, I realized the invaluable investment that Charlotte had made in the lives of her children.  The love that Charlotte had given was returned in like measure.  The faith that had given her such hope in life gave hope to her children as her life came to a close.

A mother’s love is priceless.  When coupled with real faith in God, its worth defies calculation.  When the two are successfully passed on to the next generation, they leave a legacy that time cannot erase.  Mothers who do that through all the many challenges of life are worthy of the highest honor, although it is not honor that they seek.  They just want to be good mothers.  That’s why they are so easily overlooked.  And that is one reason we need a Mother’s Day, to prompt us to give the honor they deserve.