So Obvious?

Posted by James Keller on 02/27/17 @ 12:12 AM

Ephesians 5:33 (GW)
33  But every husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and wives should respect their husbands.

This seems so basic, doesn’t it?  It seems like it shouldn’t have to be said.  Yet God does indeed say it.  Recently I was having a cup of tea at a coffee house (I don’t really like coffee, weird I know) with a group of pastors.  One pastor commented that he had just finished reading Leviticus.  He said how amazed he was that God had to tell the Children of Israel not to do certain things that seemed so obvious.  What are those things?

Leviticus 19:14 (GW) 

14  Never curse deaf people or put anything in the way of blind people to make them stumble. Instead, fear your God. I am the LORD.

It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?  Cursing a deaf man (who can’t hear our curses) is rude.  Placing objects in the path of the blind (who can’t see them) is also rude.  Why should God have to tell the Children of Israel such simple common rules of living in polite society? The answer, of course is, because human beings are not polite. 

Not only are we not polite, but we very often refuse to see the obvious.  How many times have you searched frantically for a lost object only to have someone point it out to you right in front of you?

We may know what the right thing to do is, but frequently, we choose not to do it.  So, God through Paul tells us very plainly how marriages are to work.  Husbands are to love their wives.  Wives are to respect their husbands.  It seems so basic.  But if you think about, when you get the basics wrong, the rest also goes wrong.  When a professional sports team loses a big game, what does the coach do?  Takes them back to the basics.  He reinforces the basics of the game so that they will be better.

It is the same with our marriages.  We men know that we should love our wives.  But we allow other things, other pursuits, to get in the way.   We know what we should do, but we stray away from the basics.  The result?  Our wives don’t feel loved.  When our wives don’t feel loved, they don’t feel like giving out love (yes, men, you know what I am talking about).  When a husband returns to the basics, loving his wife as he loves himself, the marriage starts working better.

Wives know that their husbands are different.  They know that their husbands need their respect.  But when wives start listening to daytime T.V. talk shows (you know the ones I am referring to) that constantly degrade men and disrespect them, wives start to think that way about their husbands.  Wives forget the basics.  When the husband doesn’t feel respected, it is hard for him to love his wife who disrespects him.  When a wife returns to the basics, respecting her husband, the marriage starts working better.

It seems so simple.  Yet we are too dense to grasp the obvious.  So, God has to remind us.  Men, love your wives!  Women, respect your husbands!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim


Posted by James Keller on 02/19/17 @ 11:28 PM

2 Timothy 2:13 (GW)
13  If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful because he cannot be untrue to himself.

God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our faithfulness.  That is very comforting.  Let’s be honest, you and I are pretty unfaithful when it comes to our relationship with Jesus.  We say that He is the Lord of our life.  But too often He gets second place or no place in our decision making.  We decide what we want and then ask God to bless our decision.  Or worse yet, we decide what we want even though we know it goes against what God wants. 

Yet, how does God deal with us?  He still sends his blessings on us.  He still provides for our needs.  He sends people and circumstances into our lives to call us back to faithfulness in Him.

This is what we see time and again in the Old Testament.  God’s people became unfaithful.  Yet God was faithful in sending prophets.  God was faithful in calling his people to repentance.  God was faithful in redeeming them. 

This is also true in the New Testament.  Paul describes God’s faithfulness to us in our unfaithfulness this way: Romans 5:10 (GW) 10  If the death of his Son restored our relationship with God while we were still his enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of his Son will save us.  Our unfaithfulness was so severe that we were considered enemies of God.  Yet God in His faithfulness sent His only son to die in our place so that we can be called children of God.  You can’t get more faithful than that.

What does God want in return for His faithfulness towards us?  Just our faithfulness towards him.  The best part is, when we are unfaithful towards Him, He still is faithful towards us!

Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

The Joy of Obedience

Posted by James Keller on 02/12/17 @ 10:50 PM

Colossians 3:20 (GW)
20  Children, always obey your parents. This is pleasing to the Lord.

 “O-B-E-Y Obey your mom and dad!

O-B-E-Y It really makes them glad!”

 So goes a chorus of a children’s song.  As a parent, I can tell you that when my children willingly and gladly carry out my instructions, it does make me happy.

God, as our heavenly Father, also is pleased when we willingly and gladly carry out His instructions. 

 Obedience is not a lock step drudgery but rather is meant to be a joyful opportunity of making our parents, and our heavenly Father pleased.  When viewed in that light, why wouldn’t we want to obey? 

I visit my dad quite regularly in the nursing home.  While there, I see many older people who have no family.  Their faces light up when I offer to help them.  Sometimes I just crouch down by their wheelchairs and look into their eyes as I listen to them.  They smile and thank me for taking the time to care.  I don’t find this drudgery but rather I derive much joy in seeing their happiness. 

This is what our memory verse is talking about.  This kind of obedience produces a three-fold joy.  It produces joy in our parents (or other authority figures) by our glad obedience.  It pleases God when we obey this way.  And finally, it produces joy in our hearts as we see the joy in the faces of others and know that God is pleased.

O-B-E-Y and experience joy!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S.  What would you add to the benefits of obeying?

Six Negative Results from Not Forgiving

Posted by James Keller on 02/05/17 @ 11:24 PM

Matthew 18:35 (GW)
That is what my Father in heaven will do to you if each of you does not sincerely forgive other believers.

Forgiveness is a gift from God.  But forgiving others is a command from God.  We like the gift, we don’t like the command.  As followers of Jesus our lives should look different from the lives of those around us.  One of those noticeable differences should be our giving of forgiveness.  Jesus is pretty clear that the consequences of not forgiving are unpleasant.  Unforgiving others can lead to our own loss of forgiveness (See Matthew 18:21-35).  But refusing to forgive someone has other negative results in our lives.  Here are few:

1)      Not forgiving someone can lead to bitterness.  Paul warns the church at Ephesus to get rid of bitterness (Ephesians 4:31).  The writer to the Hebrews warns that bitterness causes trouble and will corrupt you (Hebrews 12:15)

2)      Not forgiving someone can cause health problems. When you harbor anger at someone, you lose sleep.  You lie awake at night recalling the evil done to you.  Loss of sleep can cause many health problems including: High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

3)      Living in anger causes poor judgment (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

4)      Not forgiving others causes problems with our other relationships.  We keep bringing up the past hurts and others see us as negative people.  People don’t want to be around people who are negative.

5)      Not forgiving people robs us of our joy.   Holding on to past hurts prevents us from enjoying what God gives us now.

6)      When we refuse to forgive others, we make ourselves out to be wiser than God.  Our refusal to forgive is in effect telling God, “I know better than you. Jesus made a mistake by dying for this person!”  This last one is the reason why Jesus commands forgiveness.  When we refuse to forgive, we break the first commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  When we refuse to forgive, we in fact make ourselves out to be a god.  We become our own idol. 

Based on these six negative results of refusing to forgive others, wouldn’t you agree that forgiving others is desirable? If you need help forgiving, let me know and I will send a pdf. Bible study on forgiveness.

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S.  What would you add to the list of negative results from refusing to forgive?

The Foolishness of the Cross

Posted by James Keller on 01/29/17 @ 10:49 PM

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)

 Why do Christians love the cross so much?  From the outside, it is a strange thing to love.  The cross was a symbol of the Roman Empire’s cruelest form of execution.  To hold such an object in reverence seems very odd if not outright weird.  But it is not the object so much as the individual who was killed upon it.  But again, to an outsider that seems strange.  It would be like wearing a bullet to represent a martyr who died in a firing line.  Or wearing a hangman noose for a martyr who was hanged.  Or loving fire for one who was burned at the stake.    Strange indeed, if not downright foolish.  But there is a difference in our love for the cross.  The difference is that, though Jesus did die upon a cross, he didn’t stay dead! Jesus did in fact rise form the dead.

But why the fuss over the cross?  Certainly, Jesus victory of death is of great importance for us, His followers.  The reason the cross is held in such reverence is that it is here at the cross that our sins are forgiven.  It seems strange, but true.  Jesus took our sins upon himself.  He paid for those sins, the terrible price that sin, disobedience towards God brings, Jesus paid in full.  He took our place.  The cross, the symbol of suffering and shame is also our symbol of freedom form sin, God’s anger, death, hell and even our own desires.  The cross is the symbol of what Jesus won for us.  It is at the cross that we receive forgiveness of sins. 

 To those who do not follow Jesus, the cross looks foolish.  But to us who do follow Jesus, the cross is where we see God’s love poured out for us, through the blood of Jesus.  Foolish to some, but precious to us!

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

The Top Three Benefits of Jesus Being the Lamb of God

Posted by James Keller on 01/22/17 @ 11:06 PM

John 1:29 (GW)
29  John saw Jesus coming toward him the next day and said, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

 Have you ever thought how Jesus being the Lamb of God benefits you?  Here are the top three that I came up with:

 1)      We don’t need animal sacrifices.  I don’t know about you, but there is no way I could afford to sacrifice animals for all my sins.  Come to think of it, do you think that is why God put the whole animal sacrifice thing in place?  So that people would realize they needed something better?  Like maybe a Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world?

2)      Forgiveness is not dependent on me. How can I ever make up for the big sins of my life?  (OK, how can I ever make up for the little sins of my life too?)  I would never really be sure that I have done enough to earn my forgiveness.  I would always be in doubt.  Jesus as my Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world assures me that I am forgiven.

3)      It’s all about grace.  Notice, Jesus is the Lamb of God.  God initiates this.  The more I read the Bible (I hope you are reading yours daily), and the more I look at my life, the more I am overwhelmed by God’s grace.  Grace is God’s undeserved love for us.  There is nothing worthy in me that makes me deserving of God’s love.  If God just provided for my daily needs (which He does), that would be way more than I deserve.  But God actually loves me (and you too) so much that He was willing to sacrifice His son, His only son whom He loves, for me!

 What would you add to this list?

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

Walk in New (ness of) Life

Posted by James Keller on 01/15/17 @ 8:36 PM

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 (ESV)

Our church is called New Life for a reason.  We emphasize baptism as entrance into the New Life we have in Christ for a reason.  Our memory verse for this last week helps us to see the connection.  We are baptized into the death of Christ.  Our baptism connects us with the death and burial of Jesus.  Jesus came to take our place as the object of God’s anger over our sin.  Sin is disobedience to God.  Sin is death.  Isn’t it interesting that in order for us to overcome the death of sin we must be connected to the death and burial of Christ?  Sin brings death, yet Christ’s death brings life.  Our connection to that life is through baptism.  Even though baptism happens once in our lifetime, it is daily benefit for us.  Martin Luther puts it this way:

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.[1]

Typically, we think of the New Year as a chance to do things differently.  We make many New Year resolutions.  But really, once you are baptized, every day is a chance to not only do things differently but to live differently – thanks to our baptism.  Paul says that we should walk in this newness of life.  Walking has a different idea to it than running.  I don’t know about you, but I rarely run anymore.  It hurts my knees, I get winded easily, it just isn’t enjoyable.  But walking is different.  I walk every day.  Sometimes I walk slowly.  Sometime I walk fast.  Walking is a daily occurrence for me.  Thinking about my new life in Christ through baptism as a walk is much easier for me than as a run.  You can walk at your own pace.  But you are still moving towards the goal.  Our new lives in Christ are like that.  We are all moving towards the goal – becoming more and more like Jesus.  As a church, we are on this walk together.  Sometimes we slow down to encourage each other.  Sometimes we speed up to ‘catch up” to those who are ahead.  But always we are moving forward.  Our lives are not stopped.  God the Holy Spirit is working in each of us, moving us along as individuals and as a church in this New Life of Faith in Christ. 

If you are not a member of New Life but are reading this, why don’t you join us for a walk on Sundays?  If you can’t physically join us, you can join us by listening to the sermon here

If you are not a follower of Jesus, what is keeping you from experiencing the walk in the newness of life?  How can we walk with you to help you?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

[1] IV. What Baptism Indicates. Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House.

God’s Extravagant Love

Posted by James Keller on 01/01/17 @ 10:46 PM

Galatians 4:4 (GW)
4  But when the right time came, God sent his Son {into the world}. A woman gave birth to him, and he came under the control of God's laws.

Here is an amazing truth: God the creator became part of his creation!  God the law giver placed himself under his own laws!  This never ceases to amaze me.  I can’t fully understand how an omnipotent, omnipresent God could be limited to a specific time and place.  I can’t understand it, but I can be grateful.  This shows God’s extravagant love for us, his creation.  He limited himself to a certain time and place so that we can spend time with God here and now but also for all eternity!

Christ's slave,

Pastor jim

Five Types of Living Sacrifices

Posted by James Keller on 12/19/16 @ 11:52 AM

Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God's compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you (Romans 12:1 GW).

What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?

 “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” 

― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

 Whoever doesn't take up his cross and follow me doesn't deserve to be my disciple (Matthew 10:38 GW).

 It seems that the life of a follower of Jesus is one of sacrifice.  Jesus tells us to pick up the very thing that will kill us and follow Him.  Just how does this look in our lives today?

 1)      For some this literally means persecution and possible death just for following Jesus.  Many in the Burmese community are afraid to follow Jesus because of this reality.  When a Burmese converts to Christianity, he or she may be shunned by family and friends.  Some face persecution.  Burmese believers are accused of abandoning their people.  They are declared no longer Burmese.  But the good news is that Jesus brings them into new families.  He places these new believers into loving churches who stand with them.  If they are able to remain in their families, Jesus uses them to demonstrate His love.  They become living sacrifices of love to their households.  Through these living sacrifices, family and friends are drawn to Christ.

 2)      Others discover that they must give up something, something they love, in order to follow Jesus.  As we read God’s word we discover God's word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God's word judges a person's thoughts and intentions (Hebrews 4:12 GW).  How painful it is to discover that one of the things we love to do is really sin in the eyes of God!  We are then faced with a choice.  We can either try to ignore the passage of Scripture and keep right on living the sin.  Or we can ask God to help us to give up enjoying and doing this sin.  The first choice leads to sacrificing our faith.  The second choice leads to making a painful sacrifice for Christ.  Unfortunately, many in the church today have chosen the first choice.  This is why so many churches are powerless to be instruments of God’s life changing love in the communities where they live.  Those who have made the second choice find that whatever they have given up for Christ, Christ has replaced with something better.  They feel free.  They live free.  And they lead others to the same freedom.

 3)      Sometimes Christ asks us to give up something we love only in order to give it back to us.  He did that with Abraham.  God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.  When Abraham obeyed, he got his son back (Genesis 22:1-14)!  Sometimes God asks us to sacrifice something important to us so that we will learn how to use that for God’s glory.  What brings God more glory than bringing others into His kingdom?  What is God calling you to sacrifice?  What is He asking you to use for bringing others to Christ?

 4)      Sometimes we are called to give up something for a short time so that we can focus more on God and His kingdom.  We might call that fasting.  Fasting often is thought of as not eating.  Certainly, that is one type of fast.  But God can call us to fast from certain types of activities as well.  During these times of fasting we should focus on God and His word.  We should spend the time we would have been eating (or playing video games) reading the Bible, praying and listening for the voice of God.  This is a time to draw closer to God.  The church year has some times set aside for fasting.  During the 40 days of Lent (the time leading up to Easter) is often a time of fasting.  The Advent season (the weeks leading up to Christmas) is also a time of fasting.  But you can fast other times as well.  I am not an expert in fasting.  But I am trying to learn more about this spiritual discipline.  It is one that often is forgotten. 

 5)      Finally, God often asks us to make a long-term sacrifice in order to follow Him.  This can mean a change in plans.  It can mean giving up what seems like a great opportunity for us personally in order to follow where Jesus is leading.  It can mean not living out our dreams in order to live for Christ. 

 Whatever kind of sacrifice we are called to make (short-term or long-term), we should never draw attention to ourselves for making this sacrifice.  This is a lot harder than it would seem.  Our sinful nature wants others to know what we are “giving up for Jesus.” We want recognition.  We want people to look at us and say, “Wow, what a super spiritual person!” 

 “When you fast, stop looking sad like hypocrites. They put on sad faces to make it obvious that they're fasting. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. 17  When you fast, wash your face and comb your hair. 18  Then your fasting won't be obvious. Instead, it will be obvious to your Father who is with you in private. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18 GW). 

It seems that there is a last way that we are to be living sacrifices.  We are not to draw attention to ourselves.  Instead, we should be about pointing others to Jesus.  We should sacrifice our egos, our wants, our desires.  I don’t remember who said it, but it is true, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.”

 Don’t give up!  Crawl back on the altar! 

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

 P.S.  Have you thought of another way to be a living sacrifice?  Let me know by commenting on this post.

One in Christ

Posted by James Keller on 12/11/16 @ 12:09 AM

Galatians 3:28 (GW)
28  There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.

For whom did Christ come to die?  All people.  All people are the same to Jesus.  We all start out as enemies of God because of our sin.  Through the gift of faith, we are all now members of His family.  Yet Sunday is still the most segregated time in America.  Why?  Because of our sin.  We choose to look at skin color.  We choose to look at ethnic origins.  We choose to look at education.  We choose to look at finances. But God chooses us.  He chooses the worst of the lot.  He cleans us up and makes us His.  If we are truly determined to live and love like Jesus, we need to stop looking at externals and start looking at eternals.  Yes, there may still be some things that keep us apart (not speaking the same language, as is the case with many in our second service), but we should all be working toward living and loving regardless of our differences.  I have seen children of God come together even when they can’t talk with each other.  I have seen Christ’s body of believers worship together even though some were uncomfortable.  But those who were uncomfortable, were willing to make the sacrifice so that we could all worship together.  Let’s make 2017 the year of united praise and worship.  Let’s make it the year that we welcome all, not just those like us.  Let us live and love like Jesus!

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

P.S.  What do you think is the key to looking beyond skin color, race, and other differences?

Pastor jim said...

Posted on 01/01/17 @ 10:49 PM -
You are right! it is not our job to judge others. We often are wrong in our judgments because we don't know the whole story. Getting to know people, listening to their story, is important for us to understand better where they are coming from and also for us to see how much they really are like us.

Suzie said...

Posted on 12/23/16 @ 1:47 PM -
It's something that I deal with every day at work. We can't look at skin color or tattoos and automatically think this person is "bad" and they deserved to be shot or stabbed. We have to treat each patient unconditionally. What if we judged people by the way they looked? We could be totally wrong and a lot of the times we only hear part of the story. It's not our job to judge others.

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