The Gospel Guarantee

The Gospel Guarantee

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2Corinthians 5:4-5

The gospel guarantee for our bodies is resurrection when Jesus comes back; not physical healing in this present age. While healing is available now and should be prayed and believed for, the bigger plan for our bodies is that they be raised at Christ’s coming.

Our current bodies are referred to as tents – they are temporary. God has a redeemed, perfect body for us who believe that is permanent. “Now we know that if this earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven.” (2Cor. 5:1)

All physical healing now is evidence of the resurrection power that will one day raise our earthly bodies (whether we’ve died or are still alive) and give us the redeemed body that can’t be worn down or worn out. “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.'” (1Cor. 15:52-54)

In Jesus first coming, He secured forgiveness for our sins and peace for our souls. At His second coming, He will reverse the curse that causes our bodies to “waste away” in this present age. (2Corinthians 4:16) We need to live in our tents until we die, so I thank God for His power for us to be healed now, but it’s really important that we don’t guarantee the wrong thing to people.

A dear friend at a former church was dying and on his deathbed started to doubt his salvation. He was such a brilliant, giving Christian, so I couldn’t understand why he was struggling at the time he most needed his faith. He explained: “If Jesus died for my sicknesses the same way He died for my sins, then how can I believe I’m forgiven if I’m not healed?”

Those of us who believe in healing need to be careful to not overreach in what we promise or we create confusion in those God loves. I told him that God loved him and Jesus died so that he could be forgiven and go to heaven whether he got physically healed or not.

Physical healing now is available to be asked for but when it doesn’t happen, we thank God that a more complete healing is coming. We still live in a time where we must grieve over death, but we don’t grieve as those who have no hope.

“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him… For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command… and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1Thessalonians 4:14-17)

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

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Overreaching

Overreaching

"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed…We who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." Romans 8:19; 23

My favorite board game is called Ticket to Ride. It involves "tickets" you choose to keep or throw away based on whether you think you can build the trains necessary to connect the two cities listed on the card – it’s all about risk and reward. The problem, of course, is that if you overreach and take a ticket you can’t fulfill, it counts against you in the end. You can be having a great game but then, in a moment of presumption, overreach in a way that causes you to lose in the end.

Overreaching in preaching leads people to disillusionment. Some very zealous teachers today believe that this is the time that the sons of God are going to be fully revealed and begin to remove the curse on creation. As we walk in our full authority, they maintain, everything will change for the better on this earth.
While it is critically important for us to know our identity in Christ, the event creation is longing for only occurs at the return of Christ where our adoption is completed and our bodies are redeemed. The full manifestation of the sons of God happens at the second coming; not in this present age. John said it like this: "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." (1John 3:2)

Right now we groan with all of creation and the Holy Spirit within us also groans (Romans 8:26-27) because things aren’t right yet and they won’t be until Jesus comes back. Life in this present age is hard, but God is still good. When Jesus described the time we’re now living in He said the wind and the waves were going to hit every life. He promised that those who obeyed His words would survive the storms, not be saved from them ever happening. (Matthew 7:24-27)

I love it when people are excited about Jesus, but we never have permission to overstate what we have been promised. No matter how much we may like a preacher, we have a responsibility to judge all that we hear by what the Word of God actually says. (Acts 17:11)

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

Jesus, Emmanuel, “God With Us”, in Our Suffering

Jesus, Emmanuel, “God With Us”, in Our Suffering

These last weeks in the Story series, we have been focusing on Jesus’ life and ministry. Today, as we think about Jesus and reflect on Him as “God with us” or God becoming man, I want to take just a moment to think about Jesus being “God with us” in our suffering. Jesus came to be with us in all of our humanity and to join us in our suffering so that He could changes things for us.

In Luke 4, we see the story of Jesus at the synagogue at Nazareth at the start of His ministry. He stood up and read the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Jesus stood in that moment and said “Today this scripture has been fulfilled.” Jesus had come with a mission to not just be with us, but to change things for us. He came to be with us in our circumstances, troubles, sufferings and trials and to bring us comfort, joy, peace and hope. It is also very evident from Jesus’ life and ministry that He lived this out in His daily life and ministry. He reached out to those who needed healing, those who needed forgiveness, and to those who needed comfort. He healed many, even the Roman Centurion’s servant. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery, He forgave her. Jesus went to Martha and Mary when Lazarus died.

We say we want to be more like Jesus, to live our lives as He lived His. We even pray it, “Lord make me more like you.” And yet, I don’t know that we understand that when we pray this, God is faithful to make us more like Jesus, and that sometimes means we will experience pain. Pain as He makes us more like Him. He is molding us and refining us. It doesn’t mean we will be exempt of suffering , but it does mean that in the midst of all of the pain and suffering, Jesus is right there with us. Never leaving, never forsaking. As He makes us more like Him, He will also call us to be with others in the midst of their suffering and pain. Asking us to sit with them, listen to them, and weep with them, just as He does for us. He shows us how to do that as He makes us more like Him.

These thoughts about Jesus being with us in our suffering are not necessarily new to us, but, as a congregation grieving today and facing various sufferings of our own, it is a comfort to remember that Jesus came to be with us and that He sits with us and weeps alongside us at this time.

May the God of all comfort bring you peace today. May Jesus who came to be “God with us” in our suffering be ever present to you today. May the Holy Spirit who is our Comforter be at work in you today.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Be blessed,

Sarah Karlen

Two Great Motivations

Two Great Motivations

There is one simple fact about God that provides two great motivations in my life. The simple fact is that God knows everything.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account." Heb. 4:13 (For further study read: Matt. 10:26; Lk. 8:17; 1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Tim. 5:24 & Ps. 94:9-11.)

The first motivation this truth provides is to live a godly life. Properly understood, it is a healthy fear of the Lord. Knowing that I will one day stand before the Lord to give an account of all my motivations, intensions, words and actions is a very sobering thought. I may be able to hide things from my boss or my wife or my kids (or even myself), but I can’t hide things from God. Because I love God and know that He is for me in every way, I choose to let this be a positive motivation. Because I want to please the Lord in everything I do, this is not a "have to" but a "want to" (Col 3:17). When I sin and fall short of what I know pleases God (and I do all the time), I simply take responsibility for it by repenting and asking for and receiving His forgiveness. The Bible says if we judge ourselves, know we will not come under his judgement later (1 Cor. 11:31). I don’t let the enemy accuse me, nor do I let my heart condemn me – because there is no condemnation in Christ
(Rom. 8:1).

The second motivation this truth provides is to trust God with my life. If he knows everything about me, he also knows the good things about my life – the things that others don’t see. He sees the prayer offered up in secret before Him. He sees the kind things I do for others even if they never get noticed. He sees the sacrifices I make that may never be rewarded. He understands me when no one else understands. He knows I’m innocent when I have been unjustly accused.
This knowledge provides tremendous security and it keeps me from the motivation to live for recognition, acceptance, justice, and the rewards of men. I have nothing to prove to anyone because I am already accepted by God. I don’t have to defend, justify or vindicate myself because He is my defender and vindicator. This is a tremendous comfort and it takes away all the pressure I may otherwise feel to have to fight tooth and nail for all the things I may think I deserve or will make me happy.

I’m glad God knows everything about me because that truth provides the motivation to please Him and to trust Him with my daily life.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Joel

Being Available to God

Being Available to God

"But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’" (Luke 10:40-42)

In the summer of 2010, we were contemplating putting two churches together and I was a bit overwhelmed. I asked a good friend and counselor how I could possibly be in charge of this potentially large church when I was already feeling overwhelmed. He suggested a study day once a week where I would only be available to God and told about his pastor back in Michigan who had done this.

"Because he did this he touched fewer people," he explained. This didn’t seem right! Why would it ever be good for a pastor to touch fewer people? But then he went on: "He touched fewer people because he had less availability, but because he did this, God was able to touch many more people through him." He said with great soberness: "Tom, I don’t remember a Sunday where people didn’t get saved, healed, or filled with the Holy Spirit. Somehow God touched him in that time away and then God touched through him Sunday after Sunday."

The next week I asked our elders for a study day every week and it’s been part of my regular routine ever since. What’s this have to do with Martha and Mary?

Martha is a good person who is doing good work but she is carrying an expectation for her sister. For Mary to continue to do what Jesus wants her to do instead of giving into the pressure Martha is applying will mean at least three things: a Christian sister is going to be disappointed; a real need is seemingly going to go unmet; and Mary’s not going to look "good" to anyone observing.

But Mary has chosen the "one thing." She is more available to God and less available to people, so she only serves when God tells her to go. She is no longer called by every need in the world or by every expectation of the people around her. She is listening only for the voice of her Lord.

Because of her devotion something wonderful happens for Martha. She gets her own encounter with Jesus where her motives are revealed and her priorities are challenged.

We aren’t doing ourselves or anyone else a favor when we are over available to people, although it may seem that way. May God help each of us live free from the fear of man, so God is able to touch more and more people through our devotion to Him.

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

Intimacy with God

Intimacy with God

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot empathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

On Thursday morning during our Intimacy with God conference, Dave Babler spoke from this verse on the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy cares that you are going through a hard time but still keeps an emotional distance; while empathy allows itself to actually feel what you are feeling. It is empathy that leads to compassion – the motivation to do something to relieve the suffering. Jesus didn’t just sympathize with us; He empathized, He felt all that we feel, and it led Him to the compassion demonstrated in His death for us on the cross.

While worshipping, before Dave spoke, God was speaking to Pastor Andrew. He apologized to Dave afterwards for not coming to the mic because what God showed him would have powerfully confirmed the message on empathy. Here’s the experience Andrew had (in his words):

“Friday morning, during the Intimacy with God conference, I was standing in the back of the sanctuary praying during the worship time. The Spirit of God showed me one of Jesus’s hands that had the hole in it from being nailed to the cross. Then it was said to me, ‘The hole represents the fact that there is nothing He (Jesus) wouldn’t do for me/us.’ But I somehow knew that it didn’t mean He would necessarily give us everything we might want. Then it was said, ‘I am always with you.’

“Then He showed me, my/our hand with the same kind of hole in it. Then I wondered why my/our hand had that hole like Jesus. Then the scripture (Luke 9:23) that speaks of taking up our cross came to mind. It was said to me, ‘As you go through hard things trusting God with your eyes on Jesus, that is us taking up our cross. That’s why we have the hole in our hands.’

Then our hand moved close to His hand with both wounds showing. Then it was said, ‘Like Him (Jesus) we are showing there is nothing we wouldn’t do for Him.’ As I felt the love that was generated by the two wounds, He spoke of the love that comes from this kind of commitment to one another.”

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

A Place at the Table

A Place at the Table

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me." Revelation 3:20

Jesus isn’t inviting us to a one-time experience but to an ongoing relationship. Amazingly, we’re not the only ones who eat when we come to His table. Jesus also eats with us as the longing of His heart for fellowship with us is satisfied when we open our hearts and take our place at the feast He has prepared.

In 2Samuel 9 we have the story of Mephibosheth. He was king Saul’s grandson and Jonathan’s son. David sought him out because he wanted to do a kindness to one of Jonathan’s descendants because he had made a covenant of friendship with him.

When Mephibosheth was brought before him he was afraid for his life because it was customary for a new king to wipe out all the descendants of the one he replaced (2Samuel 19:28). But mercy, not judgment, was in David’s heart. He gave Mephibosheth all the property Saul had previously owned making him a wealthy man, but he wanted to do something more than just give him property. David wanted to have an ongoing relationship with him so he gave him a place at his dinner table as if he was one of his own sons. (2Samuel 9:11)

Redemption doesn’t only give us immediate access to the wealth of heaven; it gives us a place at the King’s table. Just because there was always a place set for Mephibosheth doesn’t mean he always came to meals, just like God doesn’t force us to take the place He’s made for us to have fellowship with Jesus.

The church in Laodicea had said in its heart, "I need nothing." They were living as Christians apart from intimacy with Christ and had become spiritually "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." (Revelation 3:17) Jesus was pursuing their fellowship and was ready to restore spiritual riches, eye salve and garments of white to remove their shame, but they had to respond to His knocking.

He was inviting them to a meal, but to more than one meal – the invitation was to start taking their place at the table for all the meals. Physically we need to eat regularly and this is a picture of our ongoing need of daily fellowship with our Savior.

Jesus is still knocking today; have you taken your place at His table?

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom