The Invitation of Grace

Broken, undeserved, headed in the wrong direction- are all terms that shout out our desperate need for help. They describe our situation to a “T”.

We are born incomplete but full of potential. We have a built-in sense of incompleteness that rears its ugly head in times of failure and conflict. We know something isn’t right deep down in our soul.

Humanistic philosophies of life will tell us that the answer is deep inside of us. But the harder we try, the more frustrated we become. We end up trying to medicate our souls with drugs, alcohol or experimenting with all the pleasure that the world has to offer. But at the end of the day that aching feeling just won’t leave.

This is not new, not in the least bit. The most devoted people who ever walked the planet battled with their own personal set of idiosyncrasies and challenges. The difference between us and them, is that we are reading about them two thousand years later! How would you feel if your life was written about so the whole world could read about your failure?

The night before Jesus Christ was to be sentenced by the Roman Emperor Pilate to be crucified, the group of his closest followers met together in what is known as the Upper Room. Jesus has now revealed to them God’s plan to redeem the lost human race through his death on the cross. He shares with them that all of them will flee and deny that they even knew him. They thought that was beyond the realm possibility, especially Peter. It was unimaginable to them that they could do such a thing. But they did.

Here is a question to think about: What would have happened if this was the end of the story? What if the disciples would have been left with the guilt of betraying the Lord with their words and with their actions? Let me get up close and personal with you, dear reader, what happens when you betray the Lord by your actions and attitudes? It occurs more than we care to admit. I’m convinced this is why we are sometimes paralyzed because we don’t realize the extent to which our actions and attitudes are revealed by the guilt we carry around.

The good news is, I should re-phrase that the unbelievably good news is that this wasn’t the end of the story for the disciples and it isn’t the end of the story for you and me. After the resurrection, the disciples are hiding out just in case the Romans start coming for them. Into a locked room, Jesus appears to them, rebukes them for their unbelief and restores them to fellowship with him. It is only after this that he issues what we know as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel…”

What you and I need to understand is that yes, it is quite possible and probable that we have done something, said something, and even denied Christ himself in search of a better life. BUT (here is the greatest news you will hear today!) Christ stands ready to restore you back as a son or daughter of faith. We have a hard time with that because we don’t think that we now deserve it, but the fact of the matter is we can never deserve it. Our walk with God is marked by his sweet aroma of grace.

Here is my challenge to you today. Knowing that we can’t do enough to earn his grace, it’s time for you and me to accept it for what it is: the free gift of God. Allow Jesus to be the Lord of every defeat you have ever had, every battle with temptation that you may have lost, and every hope that you carry. Pray and ask the Lord to change your heart and desires that they may be centered around him.

God is so good to us! Yes, there are struggles that we deal with sometimes on a daily basis but when we walk consistently with Jesus, he shows us the next step to take!

If I can help you with your walk with God or even prayer for you,  please drop me an email at finch1959@gmail.com, I would love to be an encouragement to you today.

What is God up to?

Yes, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I am almost a senior citizen! “Almost”, I emphasize! In all of those years of life I am starting to figure some things out. Things like, if I wait long enough and don’t get up off my chair, the chances of someone bringing me a drink diminishes by the second! I don’t get impatient, I don’t get upset, I just accept it as a fact of life. I am also learning, on a more serious note, that God often teaches us the lessons of life slowly. He is not in a hurry, like I often am.

He shapes and molds our character on a day by day basis over the long-haul of life. He has a goal in mind for every person who claims that they are his by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We sometimes wonder what God is up to. Be honest with me, now, has that question ever popped into your mind? What is he trying to teach us?

I have been studying recently in the Old Testament book of Daniel. What an amazing young man was Daniel, along with his three friends! They were uprooted from their homeland, conscripted into the King’s service, prosoltyzed to be made like the rest of the servants and challenged to give up their faith in the Lord God of Israel.

We know that the southern kingdom of Judah was being disciplined by the Lord for their disobediece to him. As a result the finest young men of the nation were conscripted by Babylon to be examples to the rest of the world of the superiority of that nation and its king. But, God had a plan, as he always does. That plan involved the three young men that we meet in Daniel 1.

We often grow suspicious in our faith because things don’t turn out like we thought they should. Oftentimes it because God has something greater in mind. What we often forget is that God sees the whole picture, we only see a small sliver of the whole thing. He is doing a million things at once, while we are fretting about this one thing. Yes, it is important to us but also we need to remember that God always has our best interests at heart. He is after something far greater than our circumstances in one particular moment. He wants us to trust him.

At 60 years of age, I can look back and see that God has been very faithful to me. He was working in situations and circumstances that I was not even away of until years later. I think back to our missionary adventure when some things did not go as planned but God used those events to make me the people he wanted me to be. I learned to trust him even when I didn’t know what would happen next.

More importantly, he was making me a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. He was making sure that our priorities were in the right spot. Hebrews 11, the writer describes what faith is when he writes,

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

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By faith, we trust God that he knows better than we do. We know him through the pages of Scripture that he does have our best interests at heart. As we live each day to glorify him, he will enable us to walk by faith and not by sight as we obey his Word.

Yes, at times we will be hurt, and we will cry. But God will use those tears to make us more like his Son if our hearts are right before him. Keep drenching your heart with his Word, continue to trust him every day, allow him to shape your character to reflect his and love him deeply as Christ loves you!

Hang in there, my friend! God is not done with you yet, he has so much more for you to know and to accomplish as you strive to live for Him.

For His Glory,

Pastor Bill Finch,

finch1959@gmail.com

The Gift of His Presence

Now that we have arrived at the twelfth month of the year, we look back at the year that has been and have been witnesses to God’s faithfulness. No doubt, there have been some rough spots personally and in other ways in this year. But His faithfulness is obvious. Even though, we do live at times as if he was not there, and whether we consciously are always aware of his presence or not, he is faithful all day, every day. 

Christmas reminds us that God desires an up-close, personal relationship with you and I. Think of the extreme measures he went through to even make that possible. Even though he created us to love him, we blatantly turned our back on him and accepted the offer of the evil one. We choose to deliberately walk away from God’s offer of unconditional love and his eternal care.

Not that God was caught by surprise, his Word tells us that his plan of redemption was drawn up in eternity past. His Son was sent to carry out that plan. He was born of a virgin; he lived a sinless life in order to die a death that would redeem us from the power of archenemy of God. You and I are redeemed by faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross when he shed his blood to pay for and cover our sin.

God in his faithfulness prepared the scene. As you read through the Gospels this Christmas season and get a sense that none of this happened by chance! Not one thing! From the opening chapters of Genesis right through the book of Revelation, God is unveiling his plan to welcome you into his presence.

He has not forgot about you. He is continuing to call you to know him and to grow in your relationship to him. He is patient enough to allow you to sense your desperate need of him on a daily basis. You see, even though we are surrounded by so many rivals, none of them can match what God wants to give us through Christ. Yet…we keep trying to find that “something, or someone else better”. We try to logically argue that this God thing is a figment of our own imagination. We attempt to rationalize that this “Jesus thing” was created by a bunch of right-wing wackos who are seeking to control our lives.

Not only has he not forgot about you, the gift of his presence in the person of Jesus Christ, seals the deal. I love the New Testament story of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15. It illustrates perfectly what God did at Christmas. Those who rebelled against God, who wanted their inheritance now, who tried to deny their Father’s existence, found themselves eating at the pig trough, only to find out later that there was a banquet fit for a king prepared for them. That is grace! That is the gift of presence.

You may be new to the faith. You may be running from the faith. You may have already attempted to deny the faith. God still loves you and is ready to welcome you back! My only word of advice is, don’t wait! His presence is waiting to embrace you again with his eternal love and unrelenting care.

You may have followed Jesus for many years. Please my friend, don’t let his presence become a thing of the past. Don’t let it become something that you are so accustom to that it is no longer a wonder that it took you so long to find it. Let his presence renew your heart and your hope this Christmas season!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Pastor Bill Finch

finch1959@gmail.com

Real Hope for Real Life

hope

The Scriptures paint a very bleak picture of the spiritual condition of man.  There is no soft-selling it nor candy-coating it, or even dunking it in the world’s most expensive perfume.  Take a look at the picture painted by the Scriptures, the Word of God.

Ephesians 2:1-3

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ouch!

If that doesn’t shock your system, how about this:

Romans 3:10-12

“No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned asid; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Even by our own personal experience, everyone of us could testify that our thoughts, intentions, plans and desires are often times not what God would approve.  We are trapped by our own desires seemingly unable to escape their consequences.

What do we do?  How do we free ourselves from our sinful human nature?

Enter the scene help from the outside. We know by our own frustrations to “dig ourselves out of the ditch”, as it were, on our own we can’t do it!  The harder we try, the deeper we feel the desperation of our helpless situation. For that reason, Easter happened.

Christmas brings us the celebration of the arrival of the hope we desperately need. Christmas would make no sense whatsoever without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Hope was renewed at Christmas and sealed forever at Easter.  Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)  That sealed sin’s fate. It was rendered powerless. The Apostle wrote, “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

The hope that Jesus gives us real hope, not just a hopeful wish.  Jesus actually suffered on the cross, he actually shed his blood for the forgiveness of sin, he truly died and then he was resurrected to life again. This is such great news that we read the following words, “But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:57)

My friend, is that hope yours?  Are you tired of trying to find the solution to life on your own? Reach out by faith to the forgiveness that God offers you in Christ!

In the first ever sermon that was preached in the first church, the invitation to embrace the Gospel of Jesus was expressed by the Pastor in these words,

“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 2:38)

That, my friend, is the hope we need today! Embrace it, love it, receive it, live in it!

For His Glory,

Pastor Bill

Practicing the Presence of God through Prayer

Prayer gets a bad rap among some of God’s kids who think it is only for the spiritual elite.

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Photo by Nguyen Nguyen on Pexels.com

Some practice it on an “emergency only basis.  Others “seem” to be close to ” super saints” who use such erudite, spiritual language that you wonder what planet they have been on the last ten years!

Between those two very extreme caricatures are those who honestly struggle to adopt a lifestyle that carries with it the aroma of prayer.  These are those people, like you and I, who have a God-given passion in their hearts to bring every matter in their lives to the Lord’s attention through prayer. But, the question is, how can we adopt the lifestyle where prayer is the predominant theme of our lives? With your permission, I would like to take you on a journey through the pages of the Bible to witness those people from the past who came to grips with prayer’s importance, some failed and some passed with flying colours.

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