October 28, 2016

“You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed.” Ephesians 2:8 (CEB)

What is the greatest gift you have ever been given? Was it a Christmas or birthday gift? Was it a gift of appreciation or something someone gave unexpectedly? We have all received gifts over the course of our life. Some gifts are more memorable and special than others. Some gifts are given out of a sense of obligation. Some gifts come packed with incredible thoughtfulness and care. In my experience the one thing about gifts that is universal is we all enjoy receiving them. There is something exciting about opening a gift that someone has taken the time to give.

I have two thoughts working their way through my mind as I consider the Scripture that Paul wrote so many years ago. The first thought is perhaps a little more obvious than the second. I am continually amazed at how much God loves us. To offer such an incredible gift to such undeserving folks amazes me. In our communion liturgy the pastor says, “Hear the good news, Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us.” We serve a God who loves us no matter what. This is the most amazing part of the gift of salvation to me. In our most undesirable state possible, God loved us and offered grace toward us. What a gift!

The second thought that runs through my mind as I consider this Scripture is that everything in our life is a gift. If we received the greatest gift imaginable in salvation, everything else is a gift as well. We would never experience the rest of life if not for the first gift. As I think about my journey of faith over the last 30 years, I believe everything I experience in life is a gift from God that proceeds from God’s great gift of salvation. You’ve heard the phrase, “the gift that keeps on giving.” God’s gift of salvation, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, truly is the gift that keeps on giving. What a gift!

October 21, 2016

“… let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 

1 John 4:7 (NLT)

When I was a little kid I LOVED chocolate cake. When I was in late elementary school I LOVED the show "The Six Million Dollar Man." As a teenager I LOVED hanging out with my friends after football games. In my twenties I LOVED becoming a follower of Jesus Christ and learning all that meant. When I meant Debbie I LOVED her differently than I had ever loved any human being before. When we had our daughters I have LOVED being a dad. All of these things have the same word in common, LOVE. Love is an important aspect of life and impacts us in so many ways. Over my years on this planet my LOVE has changed and grown, and I experience LOVE differently now than when I was a little kid (except for chocolate cake – pretty much the same feelings).

So if we are to speak of living a life of complete joy, we must speak of love. In order to speak of love we need to go ahead and reach a foundational understanding about love. The biblical definition of love is very different than the cultural/worldly definition. The world (Merriam-Webster) defines love as a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person. Culture defines love as a feeling, wherein lies the distinction between the cultural and biblical definition of love. Culture defines love as a feeling, the bible defines love as God. In 1 John 4:8 John writes, “… for God is love.” John does not tell us that God is loving, he tells us God IS love. This means that love is not a feeling we have for God, God is love. God and love cannot be separated, they are one and the same. Love comes from God. When we experience true love we are experiencing God.

Followers of Jesus are called to continue to love one another. It is who we are. Love is one of God’s attributes, which means it is a fundamental, unchanging characteristic of God. God gave us an example of this character in Jesus Christ, the Son. All that Jesus did for us through his life, ministry, death, and resurrection compels us to respond in love. Jesus called us to love God and love our neighbor as evidence of our love for God. When we love, God’s love is made real. The call to love one another is a call to show the world how much God loves them, because God is love. It is a call to reveal God’s love for all to know and experience the love of God and the God of love. This is the third aspect of experiencing a life of complete joy.

This Sunday we conclude the message series “Complete Joy.” We will talk about the joy God desires for us through loving one another. I look forward to sharing more about this with you. I can’t wait to see you in church!

October 14, 2016

“And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.” 1 John 2:25 (NLT)

It was a beautiful summer evening in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. We were there visiting friends and decided to walk through the historic district and Falls Park. We walked toward a very unusual bridge, known as The Liberty Bridge, and starting heading across the bridge. The Liberty Bridge is unusual because it does not make its way straight across the Reedy River to the other side. It is a suspension bridge in the shape of a curve. It is further unusual because the railing is all cables and almost becomes invisible as you get out on the bridge. Visually this bridge is very challenging. It was so unusual that one of the people we were with became very disoriented. We had to help him off the bridge and help him gain his proper orientation.

The reason that The Liberty Bridge completely changed the orientation of this person was perspective. As we all walked out onto the bridge for the first time our perspective totally changed. To a certain degree it felt like we were floating. Everything felt a little bit off because of the design of the bridge. However, if we looked up and toward the opposite end of the bridge we were able to regain the proper perspective. We ended up watching as this disorientation took place with many people. It became all about the change in perspective. With the right perspective people could handle the bridge. With the wrong perspective they became disoriented.

Over the years that I have been a pastor and youth director before that, I have found this is also a common issue among followers of Jesus Christ. When we lose our proper perspective on life and faith we become spiritually disoriented. If our perspective is on us, our needs, our concerns, our plans all of the time we will get off course and disoriented. If our perspective is on God, loving God, and one other, loving others, we will find complete joy. We will enjoy fellowship with Jesus Christ the Son and with God the Father. Paul writes, “And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.” It’s all about our perspective.

The Apostle Paul is telling us that when we focus on God’s perspective we experience compete joy. The world throws us curved bridges with cable railings that extend over deep canyons that can be difficult to navigate. If we keep our perspective on loving God and loving others, we will be able to handle life’s challenges. Keep your orientation on Christ and you will never get disoriented again. It is a matter of having an eternal perspective. When we follow Christ we begin to enjoy a glimpse of eternity here and now. We begin to enjoy the eternal fellowship we will have by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. God’s kingdom comes and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. If you want to experience complete joy, keep an eternal perspective.

This Sunday we will continue the message series “Complete Joy.” We will talk about having the proper perspective and experiencing the complete joy God desires for us. I look forward to sharing more about this with you. I can’t wait to see you in church!

October 7, 2016

“We are writing these things so that our joy will be complete.” 1 John 1:4 (NLT)

Watching and listening to a slew of political ads and a Vice Presidential debate this week, it seems that it is harder to find true joy right now. There are places around the world that are torn apart, people setting off bombs that kill innocent people, and yet others losing their life for no apparent reason. There does not seem to be an abundance of joy as we look at the world around us. It would be easy to lose sight of any joy if one were to focus on the circumstances of the world. It just isn’t a pretty sight and the scenario only seems to be getting worse. Our greatest concern is for the future and what it will be like for us and those coming up behind us.

I have experienced this lack of joy in the world around me. It seems that the uncertainty of the world around us can steal the joy right away from us. As a husband and father of two teenage daughters, I am concerned about the direction of the world around us, our country, our schools, communities, and even our churches. I am certain that we have all had these thoughts at one point or another. We wonder exactly what the world is coming to and we don’t have a lot of answers. I was talking with someone just today about the presidential election and we came to the conclusion we would like another option. The options in front of us are not inspiring us to have great hope or joy.

All of this is why I am so excited we will be starting a new message series this week entitled Complete Joy. Here’s the thing I have learned over the years – Joy is not bound to your circumstances! God knows better than you or me that the world around us is in trouble in a lot of ways. We live in a fallen world and the choices that people make are not always godly choices. That is why God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way. Luke writes that Jesus “…will be the greatest joy to many ...” (Luke 2:34) Jesus himself said, “I have told them many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my joy.” (John 17:13) Joy is not bound to your circumstances, your joy comes from the Lord. Isaiah said “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!” (Isaiah 61:10) God desires for us to be overwhelmed with the joy of Christ, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

The one thing to remember is that our Joy is in Jesus Christ. To experience the joy of Christ we need to tell people about all that Jesus Christ has done for us, see the world from Christ’s perspective, and love like Jesus. Joy is born out of a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. So if the world is on fire and you have Jesus you will still have joy. This is complete joy – to be filled with the joy of Christ. Imagine if we all realized this complete joy available to us through Jesus no matter what the circumstance. How amazing would that be?

This Sunday we will begin the message series “Complete Joy.” I look forward to sharing more about this with you. I can’t wait to see you in church!

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Pastor Tim Machtel