Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Love That Endures

The picture on the right is of Dulce Rock, a geographical landmark that marks the western edge of town.  In days past it was legal to climb it and I believe there is an accessible route up along the back side.  Viewed from the front, as in the picture, you can see how the rock has crumbled a bit over time.  It is a local landmark, but one that appears to be gradually decreasing in size and prominence.  Given a long enough period of time it may one day fade to a bump on the ground.

This morning I was reading Psalm 5, where David says number of things about God.  Verse 7 kind of stuck with me, which says:

"But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house."

While David has several things to say about the nature of God in the Psalm, it was the way he talked about God's love that really caught my attention.  For David, God's love is both abundant and steadfast.

Abundant, being extremely plentiful and perhaps overflowing.  

Steadfast, being fixed in purpose, firm in direction, unwavering and resolute.

David knew these things about God's love, and he knew them personally.  But these things are not just true for David.  They are true for every person who has faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.  As we draw near to Easter we see God's love in its purest form in the abundance in which it is given Jesus and the steadfast way in which He secured the salvation of sinners through His death-and-resurrection. 

This is not a love that deteriorates over time, like the rocks making up Dulce Rock.  Nor is it like any man-made structure, such as the Great Wall of China.  Very impressive in its day, and impressive today, but gradually coming apart nonetheless.

The love of God, seen most clearly in the person and work of Jesus, is abundant and steadfast.  It is a love that endures.  And by faith in Jesus it is a love that is freely offered to you.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Exactly Enough

The picture in this post is of Archuleta Mesa, taken from behind our house and looking north.  I took it late in the day, near sunset.  The top of the mesa is perhaps 3 miles from home, as the crow flies.  Dulce sits at about 6800 feet of altitude, while Archuleta tops out close to 9200 feet.  As far as Dulce is concerned, Archuleta Mesa is the dominant geographical landmark.

During my sermon on Sunday I talked about God's grace, but in order to understand God's grace we first have to have a sense of why a person would need grace.  And the Christian standpoint is that grace is needed because humans sin, and they sin a lot.  

How much do Christians sin? That is where Archuleta Mesa comes in.  If each of the sins that I have committed throughout my life to this point were represented by a rock the size of my fist, and those rocks were stacked at the base of the mesa, the pile would probably be taller than the mesa.  A big pile, and one that grows bigger each day.

That is a whole lot of sin.  By comparison, how large is God's grace? 

God's grace, His forgiveness of my sin, is exactly enough.  Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, puts it this way:

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Christ Jesus, who had no sin, took all of my sin, every last bit, every boulder and pebble, and exchanged it for His righteousness.  The grace He had for me, the forgiveness of my sin, was exactly enough.  Or given the fact that while forgiven I remain a sinner living in a fallen world, so that I continue to sin each day, I could say that in both the present and future tenses as well.  He has forgiven my sin, He forgives my sin, and on the last day, He will forgive my sin.

I might be writing this in reference to myself, but being a pastor gives me no exemption before God as a sinner.  The number of my sins is great, but the forgiveness that comes by God's grace is exactly enough so that one day I will stand before God in the righteousness of Christ.

And this isn’t a gift that is only available to a few people, for He has exactly enough grace to forgive each and every one of your sins too.  All you need to do is to place your faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, and you, too, will know the forgiveness that He freely gives.  The grace He has for you is exactly enough.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Once upon a time I had 20/20 vision. Then in my later 30's I began needing glasses to read.  It wasn't a big deal.  I got some inexpensive glasses and put them on to read.  Over time I needed to get stronger reading glasses but my vision for distance was fine.  Or so I thought.  Around the time I turned 50 I got an eye exam that showed trouble seeing things both near and far, and so it was time for bifocals. 

Wearing bifocals was an eye-opening experience.  It took some time for me to figure out how to read with them without driving myself crazy.  But the changes I noticed with distance vision were more dramatic.  It turned out that things in the distance were much clearer and crisper through my bifocals than I had thought.  My impression had been that my distance vision was fine but wearing bifocals proved that wasn't the case at all.

Living life as a Christian can be a bit like my experience with my vision before I had bifocals.  I thought I was seeing things clearly, but I really wasn't.  We can live each day and think that we are doing things in ways that are pleasing to God, and then we find out that there is a big blind spot in our life.  We come to find out that we drifted off course, and that we're continuing to drift farther away each day.

This all came to mind recently when I was reading Psalm 7 and got to verse 8, which says:

"The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me."

The Psalmist is in the midst of a conflict with someone else and asking God to be his judge, basically in comparison to this other person.  But that isn't the way that God acts as judge.  God's standard isn't how we compare to other people but how we measure up to the guidelines He has given for us.  And by those standards everyone of us falls woefully short.  Our own righteousness, or own sense of integrity, will carry no weight with God.

When we read our Bibles and seek for God to be our teacher we find that God's word works like my bifocals, showing us things the way that they really are, and not as we seem to think that they are.  And that means that by faith in Jesus as my Savior I can read the words of the Psalmist and know how far I am from God's standards, and yet…

…and yet know that I can come before God confidently as my judge, because the righteousness that I do have is a gift from Jesus.  On the cross He took all of the things I have ever done that were offensive to God, replacing them with His perfect standing before God.  

He did this for you, He did this for me, and He did this for everyone who calls on Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Amen.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Food That Satisfies

I had some outstanding meals for lunch yesterday and today.  Yesterday I was in Santa Fe and found a diner that still served breakfast at 2 PM.  I had huevos rancheros with green chili.  They came with beans, potatoes and a tortilla and my hunger was satisfied. 

Today I was just getting ready to dig around in the kitchen for something to eat when the family having a pot luck lunch at the church gym invited me to join them.  A pot luck on the reservation by a large family has an amazing quantity and variety of food.  The red chili stew was fantastic. 

One plate. One bowl.  A second plate.  Several desserts.  Then I went back home to work. 

In a sense each of those lunches was unexpected.  I knew that I was going to eat something but until the time came I had no idea what it would be.  And they were both meals that were more than adequate in their amounts, and equally delicious.

But now, nearly six hours after lunch, and I'm thinking about food again.  I don’t need a lot and I may just snack on the items in the picture.  Not the healthiest choice, but I covered the food groups pretty well at lunch. 

The thing about our bodies and food is that the time will come when what we last ate is no longer sustaining us and we need to take in some more. 

But…there is a food that satisfies…

I made a pastoral visit yesterday, where I shared John 6:35.  Jesus says:

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."

When we have faith in Jesus we have something precious and enduring.  Something that he describes here in terms of food, a way that we can understand, and yet also with a  bit of mystery, because what we receive in him will never fail us.

Red chili stew…cheetos…  They feed one for a time and then we need something else.

Jesus…food that satisfies, now and forever.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

If Only

About five miles east of here, on the highway that heads towards Chama, NM and Pagosa Springs, CO, there is a speed limit sign saying "55 MPH."  The sign comes as one leaves Lumberton, where the limit dropped to "45" and lets a driver know that now it is safe and legal to drive a bit faster.

If only it were that simple.  You see, the road is in very good shape, it has a wide shoulder, and it doesn't get much traffic.  The temptation is to drive over the limit, and I've seen people go a ways over, maybe to 75, or a bit beyond.  And I know the temptation well, for once, while my mom was in the car, no less, I climbed the hill to find a state trooper just over the crest.  He informed me I was going 70 in a 55, and he wrote me a ticket.

Before church this morning I read the opening chapter of Proverbs, which says this in verse 10:

"My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent."

If only it were that simple.

The Christian lives in a world surrounded by temptation, and they know it.  Some days it can seem as if everywhere they look there is something calling out to them.  Something calling them to follow a path separate from the one that leads towards God.  We can begin to see something that God has spoken of as right or wrong being more like a suggestion, rather than a rule for our own good.  Sort of like my episode on the highway.

One aspect of the good news of Jesus is that today we can see something clearly that the author of Proverbs only pointed towards.  And that is that our ability to resist the enticement of sin is something that we don’t do on our own.  It is something that we can't do on our own.  It is something we can only do when we rely on Jesus.

Jesus is the one who lived a human life that did not consent to sin, or to sinners, from his first breath to his last.  And when we have faith in Him then we know that we can turn towards Him and rely on His strength during those times of our own temptation.

When it comes to sin, "the struggle is real," as they say.  I can’t promise that you will never give in, for every Christian knows that they yield in different ways every day.  But I know that God is faithful and that if you turn towards Christ Jesus, you will find Him.  

If only?  The truth of God's word is that it truly is that simple.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.