Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pres. Lincoln's -- Thanksgiving Day

As you gather around the table (and TV) this Thanksgiving with family and friends, I thought you might like to know where the tradition of this day in America came from. 

Lincoln’s original 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation came—spiritually speaking—at a pivotal point in his life. During the first week of July of that year, the Battle of Gettysburg occurred, resulting in the loss of some 60,000 American lives. Four months later in November, Lincoln delivered his famous “Gettsysburg Address.” It was while Lincoln was walking among the thousands of graves there at Gettysburg that he committed his life to Christ. As he explained to a friend: 
When I left Springfield [to assume the Presidency], I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.
As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving each year, we hope they will retain the original gratefulness to God displayed by the Pilgrims and many other founding fathers, and remember that it is to those early and courageous Pilgrims that they owe not only the traditional Thanksgiving holiday but also the concepts of self-government, the “hard-work” ethic, self-reliant communities, and devout religious faith(Christiananswers)

Have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

God loves you! That's something for which to be thankful!

"Give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind" 

(Psalm 107:8)

 I can remember a story that my grandpa told me when I was a kid about something he said to his daddy when he was a kid.  He was about 8-years-old and his dad had invited guests over for dinner.  They had finished up dinner and mom asked my grandpa if he wanted to help her cut up the pie and then bring it out for their guests.  He said, "Sure" and then proceeded to cut up the pie so that each piece was perfectly distributed.  He wanted to be perfectly fair.

So, he brought the first piece out to his dad.  Daddy gave it to the guest next to him.  He brought out the second piece and daddy gave that one to the next guest.  He brought out the third piece and as daddy reached to hand that one to the next guest, he couldn't help but say, "It's no use daddy.  You're not going to get a bigger piece.  I cut them all the same."

It's human nature to expect that we should get the biggest slice of pie, isn't it?  Who cares about anyone else, we deserve the biggest slice.  Now, that may sound harsh, but sadly, because of my sinful nature, and yours, which we inherited from our sinful parents, that's hard wired into us.  If there's anything that leads us to complain more and be thankful less, I can't imagine what it might be.  The single greatest thankfulness killer is entitlement: the attitude that everyone owes me something, including God.

Here's the harsh reality.  Actually, we don't deserve anything good.  Actually, we only deserve bad from God because of the bad we've thought, said and done.  However, God doesn't treat us as our sins deserve.  That's mercy.  Moreover, God gives us the good things we don't deserve.  That's called grace.  Why?  The Psalm writer says it well, "Give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind" (Psalm 107:8).

I have my faith, my forgiveness, my family, my friends, my food, my job, my house, my car and my future because of His unfailing LOVE!  I don't deserve it, but I have it, because He loves me.  And because He loves me, He gave me Jesus.  "God so loved the world that He GAVE His one and only Son" (John 3:16).  And because Jesus gave His life on the cross and took it back again when He rose from the dead, I have life, life to the full and life eternal.  Can you imagine anything better for which to give thanks than that?  So as you enjoy Thanksgiving one week from today, don't forget to thank the One who truly has given you everything!  He loves you!  That's something for which to be thankful!

If you want to hear more of this message, then join me for our Thanksgiving Worship on Wednesday, November 26, at 6:30pm or Thursday, November 27, at 9:00am here at our De Pere campus (2066 Lawrence Drive, De Pere).

Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor Chris

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Choosing To Play God - Assisted Suicide

Ever have anybody talk to you about assisted suicide or "mercy killing" and you didn't know what to say?  Here is an article that has helped me with this subject.

A 29-year-old woman named Brittany Maynard, suffering from an aggressive brain tumor, died this past Saturday.

But not from the tumor.

She took her own life in the name of "death with dignity."

It became national news because she had taken to social media to announce her decision to take her life. She even landed on the cover of People Magazine. Collectively, it brought the issue of "right to die" to the forefront of public conversation.

The Bible is very clear about the taking of a human life. In Exodus 20:13, in the sixth of the Ten Commandments, God says, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13, NIV).
The key word there is "murder."

Murder is the deliberate, willful, pre-meditated taking of a human life out of hatred, anger, greed, or self-centered convenience. The sixth commandment is not talking about the killing that takes place in war, in self-defense, or even in capital punishment. Those are important discussions, but they're not the focus of the sixth commandment.

And the sixth commandment doesn't speak to the killing of other creatures - such as animals,
…but of human beings.

The reason is simple - it's because life is sacred. Not just some lives, but every life. The fact that each and every one of us was created in the image of God gives each and every one of us infinite worth and value. Taking it upon ourselves to end a life is the ultimate act of defiance against God, for life is His and His alone to give and take.

It doesn't matter what the quality of life is for that person. It doesn't matter what the cost of their life will be to society. It doesn't matter how productive they are, smart they are, beautiful they are. It doesn't matter whether we like them or not.

All human beings have infinite worth because they are made in the image of God. And the taking of a life - any life - is showing contempt for God and His image. Life is sacred. It is not ours to do with as we please. Only God can end it or direct its ending. Euthanasia is the practice of assisting or enabling death, usually because the person is old, in pain, or terminally ill. The word "euthanasia" is from two Greek words, "eu", which means good, and "thanatos," which means death. So the word literally means "good death." 

And those who support euthanasia use terms carrying that sentiment, such as "mercy killing" and "death with dignity." The rationale is that individuals or family members have the right to end their own or someone else's life if they feel it seems unbearable. There are two kinds of euthanasia – passive, and active. Passive euthanasia is when the individual or family members decide not to use extraordinary means to extend the process of dying when there is no hope for extending life. Very few Christian ethicists would challenge that choice. They would add, however, that food and water are not extraordinary efforts. That is basic to anyone living. The real issue is active euthanasia, which is the direct killing of a patient because a disease may be terminal, or the choice to withhold basic assistance that would prolong life in a substantive way, ...simply to avoid pain or difficulty.

The more direct term is assisted suicide. And it is every bit as much the taking of a human life as any other form, because it's not our life to take, or our decision to make. Compassion can be poured out on people who are suffering, and we can and should stand with them, pray for them, and encourage them to take advantage of everything that is available in terms of pain management and hospice care,... 
...but the taking of a life, for the sake of the quality of life, is against the sanctity of life. 
So while ending our life on "our" terms sounds like a statement of personal rights that should be embraced, it's not.

It's playing God with our own lives.

And we're not God.

James Emery White

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Something that really matters: Philippians 1:1-11

Christians will live and die by the Word but rarely actually read it. Let's change that. Join me in my studies.

Philippians 1:1-11
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Last month we finished talking about Paul's 1st and possibly only visit to the city of Philippi (Acts 16:12-34). Paul began a church there with some unlikely founders: a rich business woman – Lydia, a former slave girl (I’m assuming that she continued to follow Jesus after the demon was driven from her), and a middle class jailer. With such random backgrounds it would be easy to think this church was destined to fail but today we read perhaps the dearest, sweetest letter of Paul in the New Testament. This letter, although small in size, is packed full of verses that show up today on walls, coffee mugs, and t-shirts. It is from this book we get the impression of what church (an assembly of believers) should really look like.

From the start, Paul shows complete love and concern for his fellow church people. He's thankful for them, prays for them, has joy in their partnership and is hopeful for them to endure in their faith to the end. The church people are in his heart. Paul longs for them with the affection of Christ. In these statements there is no stronger way to express how much they meant to him. He loved them as much as Christ, thinking them more important than his own life. All Paul's love leads to one continual prayer for them: Love abounding in more knowledge and depth of insight. Whatever they knew of God and however they were showing it in their everyday life Paul's desire is that they would always grow in it.

This text leads me to:

Be thankful for...
I'm thankful for fellow church people. I know that as I face all the battles of trying to live my faith in this hard, sinful world there are many others at St. Mark who can relate and remind me of Jesus' love for me as I also in turn remind them. We certainly need each other. I'm thankful we have each other.
It is easy, so easy to talk past each other and get defensive in church world. I'm sorry for times I've jumped to conclusions and forgotten to love people as Christ does.  
I'd ask that God provide the same kind of compassionate love Paul had for God's people to the people of St. Mark. Show us Lord that Church is not a big building and nor is it a guilt ridden obligation but it is real people bonded together in the truth that by nature we are lost in our sin and in Jesus fully forgiven. 
I'm going to talk to my church family about more than just the weather. I'm going to ask questions like, "How's it going..., really?" and then listen.

What does Philippians 1:1-11 lead you to Be thankful for, Confess, Ask, and Do?