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The City Blog

The Reason for the Season and Everything Else
Jan 10, 2017
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The Reason for the Season…and Everything Else.

“Why?” 

For some reason I have been feeling a little discontent and restless and confused about several things in my life lately, so I have been doing some soul-searching.  For me, this mostly means asking myself the question: “Why?”  Why am I doing this?  Why am I not doing that?  Why did that happen?  Why should I?  Why shouldn’t I?  I have found that the answer to the question “Why?” can tell me more about myself, other people and things that happen in my life than almost anything else.  As I reflect on some things I have said and done over the past couple of months, both good and bad, I am trying to honestly answer the question “Why?” 

Answering the question “Why?” will reveal who I really am and what is deep inside my heart.  Jesus once said: “Out of the abundance of the heart…the good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:35).  Only the answer to the question “Why?” from the depths of my heart can reveal whether something in my life is good or bad, right or wrong, meaningful or wasteful.

The “Why” of the heart is what really matters, but we must be careful because the “Why” is not always obvious to the eye.  Jesus once addressed a group of people who looked good on the outside, but he knew their hearts.  “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me…” (Matthew 15:8-9).

So I am asking myself: What, or who, really has my heart?  What, or who, is my “Why,” because the “Why” makes all the difference.  Two people can come to church, but because of the “Why,” one is pleasing to God and the other is not.  Two people can feed the homeless, but because of the “Why,” one is sinning and the other is not.  Two people can do the same job, but because of the “Why,” one is good and one is evil.  If you think that is overstated, consider Romans 14:23: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

If I want my “Why” to be pleasing to God in all that I say and do, then I must match my “Why” with His.  The Scriptures teach that God himself has a “Why” that defines his goodness…and also defines ours.  Jesus expressed it at the end of his longest prayer to His Father in the Bible: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).  In other words, God’s “Why” is that He loves Jesus, and He wants us to love Him too.

God created the heavens and the earth because He loves Jesus, and He wants us to love Him too.  God created men and women in His own image because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  God made a plan to forgive our sins because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  God sent Jesus to be our Savior and only hope because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God raised Jesus from the dead because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will work all things together for good to make us like Jesus because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will send Jesus back one day to put an end to all sin, sickness, suffering and death because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will give us eternal life with Him in heaven forever because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  And God will express His wrath toward all who reject Jesus, because He loves Jesus above all else and wants us to love Him above else too – so much so that He will remove every obstacle and hindrance to the full enjoyment of both His and our love for Him forever.  God’s love for Jesus is His “Why” underneath all other reasons…for EVERYTHING!

Around Christmas, many people talk about the “Reason for the Season.” Well, Jesus made clear that the “Reason for the Season,” and for everything else, is that God is a Father who has a Son that He loves, and He wants us to love Him too.  This is good news indeed!

I want my “Why” to match God’s “Why.”  I have a suspicion that if I could learn to live with this focus, I would stop feeling so discontent and restless and confused.  I think it would help me react better, be more patient and forgiving with my family and friends, and find more joy and fulfillment in my relationships and work.  Will you join me on this journey into the One Great “Why”?  Why or why not?

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” ( Colossians 3:17).

Embracing Jesus as the Reason for the Season…and for everything else…

Pastor Greg

The City Blog

Moment Living
Dec 28, 2016
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It always strikes me with mixed emotions when I hear people say, ‘Just live for the moment.’ I agree.  We should live ‘IN THE MOMENT’.  I know I have trouble with that.  Being THERE when I’m there.  The stupid cell phone seems to call my name. Ha, as I just wrote those words the little ‘ding’ went off again and I’m going to stop right now and check who it was.

I’m back.  It wasn’t terribly important.

But it’s true.  You have to live IN THE MOMENT.  But living FOR THE MOMENT is different.

It seems to me that a lot of people seem to live from event to event or moment to moment.  They have a very short view of life and maybe even no view of eternity.  This strikes me as, well, short sighted.  (Pun intended.)  And not only short sighted but stupid. 

As Paul David Tripp writes in New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, "There is no doubt about it—the Bible is a big-picture book that calls us to big-picture living. It stretches the elasticity of your mind as it calls you to think about things before the world began and thousands of years into eternity. 

It challenges you to think deeply about your life and your life after your life. For Christian people, the Bible simply does not permit you to live for the moment. It doesn’t give you room to shrink your thoughts, desires, words, and actions down to whatever spontaneous thought, emotion, or need grips you at any given time. In a moment, your thoughts can seem more important than they actually are."

So many live in the moment thinking the moment will last forever but it’s just a snapshot.  Forgetting first it’s snapped and then it’s shot.  In a moment, your emotions can seem more reliable than they really are. In a moment, your needs can seem more essential than they truly are. This is true.  Remember those I-PODS you really needed then you didn’t need because they came out with this thing called an I-PHONE. 

Trip says it this way: "We are meant to live lives that are connected to beginnings and to endings. And we are meant to live this way because all that we do is meant to have connection to the God of beginnings and endings, by whom and for whom we were created."

Stop living for the moment.  Remember that you were created for eternity.  Now is important but later is longer.  Be in the moment but live for later. Live for eternity.

This is hard.

Really hard. Because there are these moment that everything seems to hinge on.  Will you get that big job?  Will you get the girl?  Will the baby be healthy? Will the Lions actually make the playoffs?  And then there are moments that you wonder if you’ll even make it through.  Your world is teetering.  And it seems like nothing else will ever matter. 

But later does matter. And as Andy Stanley says, later is longer.

"It’s hard to live with eternity in view. Life does shrink to the moment again and again. There are moments when it seems that the most important thing in life is getting through this traffic, winning this argument, or satisfying this sexual desire. There are moments when our happiness and contentment shrink to getting those new shoes or to the steak that is just ten minutes away."

"It’s in moments like this that later doesn’t seem to matter and GOD IS LOST and eternity shrinks.  We lose our direction." We lose our momentum.  And we lose our memory.  Our memory of what really matters. Later does matter and later is longer.

Jesus had a remarkable way of reminding us of this.  He once said, ‘What does it profit you to gain the whole world but lose your soul?  (Mark 8:36).  WOW.  That’s a gut check.  He reminds of the sheer magnitude of eternal thinking when He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20).

That’s hard.  Everything I seem to do is about laying up my treasure for the here and now.  I hate this about me.  Why do we put so much value in the now stuff?  I really don’t want to make now more important than later because later really is longer. 

How about you?

The City Blog

My World is Spinning
Dec 15, 2016
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That’s the way I feel right now.  My world is spinning out of control.  Not the kind that is unmanageable or sinful, it’s just that change does that.  It makes my world spin.

Everyone deals with change. Coping with change is hard.

Your elderly mother is put into a nursing facility, leaving your dad alone at home. 

You've just moved to a new city with your family. You're happy for a new job, new opportunity.

Your wife misses her parents and your children are having trouble in their new school.

Maybe it’s a new baby or changing health or a trusted friend is moving away.

Change is inevitable. We can’t avoid it.  Some of it is for the good and some of it is not so good. I’m having trouble figuring out if I like change.

My kids are getting older and they have their own lives.  They have their own minds. Their own dreams.  I’m not so sure I like that. 

People I work and serve with have their own vision of what God is calling them to…and it’s different than my vision for what God is calling them to.  Go figure…

Maybe you’re like me and you’re still surprised at how much life changes and how often…and how hard it is.  It shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does.  And what’s weird is how much it hurts sometimes.  I think it’s because you get comfortable.  Maybe it’s because you think you’re through something or over something and it’s going to finally get easy for a minute.

But it never does because life is always change. 

I’ve been told a time or two when things weren’t going my way to ‘just to deal with it.’  That’s tough for me.  I want to control things.  Honestly, not sure if this is wrong to say, but I want things to go my way and sometimes it makes me mad when they don't and sometimes it makes me sad.

I don’t want to say it, but what I’m dealing with right now is just making me sad.  Really sad.

But God is teaching me a few things.  Things that I probably should have learned before I was 46 years old, but I’m finally learning them now whether I like it or not.

CHANGE IS A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE.

You have to keep CHANGE in PERSPECTIVE.

There is an ebb and flow to life that brings natural changes with it - I have to remember this.  It was King Solomon that said there was a "time" for everything under the sun.  In other words…everything changes.  (I think somebody wrote a song about that once…)  In his book called Ecclesiastes (Ch. 3), Solomon talks about the seasons and changes of life.

Birth and Death.
Beginnings and Endings.
War and Peace.
Searching and Giving Up.
Building and Tearing Down. 

This is all change, and coping with life changes is never easy.  We get nervous and depressed because we think the change we face will change everything, when in reality only a part of our lives will be different.

We think the change is too fast, when the real problem is that maybe we're just slow in accepting the inevitable. Or we think the change is for the worse when we have no idea of what good might be just around the corner.

I heard a college professor once say, ‘Change is less unsettling when we can see the big picture and not just the small universe of our own lives.’

My aunt gave me a picture to hang on my wall when I was just a kid.  I looked at it every night.  It wasn’t really a picture.  It was just a bible verse hand-painted on a little canvas type of thing.  To be honest, it wasn’t really nice and looked kind of cheap.  But I think it changed my life.  Or at least shaped my life.  It read:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."  
- Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Most changes work out in the long run. Well, they don’t just work out.  God has a way of working in our changes if we trust Him.  I need to remember that. 

It's easy to believe this while times are stable and predictable. It's when we find ourselves in the eye of the storm that this promise is difficult to believe. But think of it, is anything too difficult for God? Do changes confuse God or make it any more difficult for Him to care for us?


But He said, I will never leave you or forsake you. That’s what Jesus told me.  And He tells you this too.  Keeping this in mind changes the change.  It makes change a little more bearable. It lowers the fear and panic that comes with change. 

I don’t know what’s come your way but it’s probably been no easier than what’s come my way. Maybe you’ve heard the word CANCER spoken to you.  Or maybe the phrase, ‘We’re eliminating your position.’ Or maybe it’s a friend that seems to be moving out of your life or wife or a husband that’s leaving for good. Maybe a dream is just slowly fading away.

Maybe you’ve got happy change going on.  If that’s you, honestly, I’m happy for you. But maybe you’ve got the kind of sad change coming.  Can I just tell you that I feel for you.  I break with you. I get it because this is where I’m at right now.  I’m worried and not liking some things that I don’t think I can stop even if I try.

But let me just speak a word to you.  One word…

TRUST.

Trust God.  Trust His goodness. Trust His Word.  Trust His Spirit and leadership and comfort.  Trust Him and He will make your path straight. 

I love that!  TRUST GOD and HE’LL STRAIGHTEN OUT THE MESS.  He’ll make your path straight. 

Different people react to "change" in different ways. So here it is for me…

Accept the fact that changes in life are natural and inevitable. Don't be surprised or hurt or panicked because change is normal.

Try to keep the changes in your life in proper perspective. Don't overreact or overestimate the impact of changes you face.

Put your trust in God. God is aware of every change and circumstance, we need to trust Him with the outcome of the changes in our lives.

Whatever we need, He will provide.  Whatever we lose, He will restore in His own way. Of course there is one final change we all should look forward to as Christians and that is the change we will undergo when Jesus returns.

"Our mortal bodies will be transformed (changed) into glorious ones in order to dwell in heaven with God forever."(no more change!)
- 1 Thess. 4:17

I’m trying to trust Him.  Pray for me and I’ll pray for you.

Until ALL Hear,

Pastor Jeremy

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