He Is

One of the most important scriptures you and I must read is
parts of chapter 1 of Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. I
encourage each of us to read it, to think about it, to let it be the
core of what we build our faith on. Here’s what Paul says . . .
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all
creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and
on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or
rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him
and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold
together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the
beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in
everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to
have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil
behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (1:15-23)
It is here that we see a clear picture of Jesus – of who He was, and most importantly, of who He is. He was with God the Father at creation – He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. We were reconciled to God by Jesus making peace with God through his death – his blood shed on the cross.
We were once separated from God – enemies of God is how Paul defines our situation. But through Christ’s death and resurrection we are presented to God without blemish and free from accusation. There is no hint of our sin – it is all done away with – accomplished not by our means but completely and eternally through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
Paul ends this section of his letter – this is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to everyone – and of which I have become a servant. His call is the church’s call – it is our call, and our privilege. Together, let us joyfully serve our Lord and our community, proclaiming His truth, His grace, and His peace – our forgiveness and our eternal life with God the Father, to the glory of His Son, even Jesus the Christ. Amen.

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God Completes It

Billy Graham once said, “For the believer there is hope
beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the
door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection.”
As important as Christmas Day and the birth of our Savior
Jesus Christ is, it is Easter that completes God’s redemptive
work. Let’s look more closely at God’s gift to us
through His Son.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been
saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of
works, so that no one may boast.”
While we would like to think we have a hand in our salvation (and to a point we do), it is
God who initiates AND completes the work of our being saved. Yes, it is we who answer
God’s call, but it is God’s Holy Spirit who empowers us to say “yes” to His call to us.
It is God’s work in Christ His Son that initiates the work of our being saved from our sin.
God, in His grace, sent Jesus to live among us, to teach us, to die for us, to pay through His
death the penalty for our sin. It is God who raised Jesus from death to life, and it that same God the Father who raises us from death to life, because Jesus paid our penalty – in full.What we could have never accomplished, God did – and we reap the benefits of His grace to us.

For this reason alone, we, who had no hope, now have all hope. I love God’s Word to us in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We have a future –life today, and eternal life with God. We have this, not because we could do anything to attain it, because we can’t – we have it because God, in His love, sacrificed His Son. Jesus endured the cross on our behalf – a cross meant for us – a cross we deserved.

Instead of hopelessly lost, we are found, never to be lost again. John 10:28 says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” No one – all because God rescued us through His Son – He died for us, and God raised Him from death – our victory over our sin and over death.
I’m writing this, looking forward to Easter Sunday. Join with us as we worship the risen
Jesus Christ! “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever” Psalm
107:1.

Periodically

How important is the church to you? That’s a question I think
each of us should periodically ask ourselves. Why “periodically” do
you ask? And why use the word “important”? These are two areas I
want to talk about this month, as we consider the part that we
individually play in the ministry and mission of the Orenco
Presbyterian Church.
Periodically. The dictionary defines this word as “from time to
time” and “at regularly occurring intervals.” How we carry out the
meaning of this word is indicative of how we live. For example,
how often we worship can be characterized as periodically –
meaning that we either attend regularly, or from time to time. We
either attend worship services most every Sunday (regularly) or once
or twice each month (from time to time). How often we bring an
offering to God can be characterized in the same way.
Other areas of our life with God can fall into the same definition: how often we pray, how often we’re looking to serve in some capacity of the church’s ministry and mission – the characteristics that describe the word “periodically” are played out in how we live.
But I find that the second word important carries more weight, as to how we live out our lives for the sake of God’s ministry and mission. One of the definitions of “important” is “of great significance or value.” The Merriam/Webster Dictionary defines important as “marked by or indicative of significant worth or consequence: valuable in content or relationship.”
Of significant worth or consequence. The Apostle Paul spoke of what was important to him, concerning his relationship to Jesus Christ – “for me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). To Paul, nothing else mattered. That was his encouragement to us. That is his encouragement to me.
How important is the ministry and mission of the Orenco Presbyterian Church? It is of utmost importance. I don’t think this just because I work here, but because Jesus has commissioned us to do His work – His ministry and mission. Just as He told His original disciples to “Go and make disciples,” He likewise today tells us to do the same. And just as Paul said that compared to his relationship to Jesus Christ nothing else mattered, that same encouragement and emphasis is for us today – that nothing else matters when we compare it to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord (see Philippians
3:1-14).
So the question for each of us is how do we live out our relationship to our Lord? For the answer we give is, in turn, the answer we give to how important is it that the Orenco Presbyterian Church carries out its ministry and mission for the sake of Jesus Christ. How well our church does this depends on you and me –both in terms of periodically and importance. Paul encouraged us to be like him – not because he was
great, but because he sought Jesus – first and only.

I have found that I must regularly ask myself this question: what have I placed above my relationship to Jesus? What must I do to put Him first in all areas of my life? That involves my time, my talents, and my treasure. Is God the Lord of these areas in my life? Is He the Lord in our life?
May each of us tithe to God in each of these three areas: for Time, may God see me joining in corporate worship on a regular, weekly basis. For Talent, may I seek that God uses the talents and spiritual gifts He gave to me for Him. And for Treasure, may I seek to regularly give the first 10th of my income to Him. And may I strive to do all three of these – time, talent and treasure – for His glory and praise. Amen.

What does it mean to love God?

Let me ask you a question: “How well do you know God?” It’s a
question I think each of us needs to be able to answer, as we ponder
what it means to love God. How well do I know God? Do I know
Him well enough?

I’ve always been intrigued with the word “pursuit.” I grew up
reading Hardy Boys books – in each of them, Frank and Joe Hardy
pursued clues to solve some mystery. They were always able to
solve the mystery, following the clues, getting help from their
detective father, Fenton, and sometimes help from their friends. I
had first seen an episode of The Tower Treasure, as part of the Mickey Mouse Club – from then on, I was hooked.

So how well do I pursue God? How well do you pursue Him? And then, what are the results of our pursuit? What do I find out about God?

The first thing I find about God is that He loves me – and He loves you. He created me in love, and when I chose to go a different way (as we all have done), in His love He sent His Son – for me . . . and for you.

I also know that I was created to have a relationship with God – a two-way relationship – He loves me, and I love Him. So, what does it mean to “love God?”

To love God means that I need to know Him. I need to know Him as deeply as I can – I need to pursue Him. This begins with worshiping and praising Him. Jesus tells us in Luke 4:8 to worship God and to only serve Him. Psalm 9 starts out by saying, “I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders” (verse 1). And we’re all familiar with the start of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want (of anything).”

These passages tell of my need to put God first – in all things. Do I do this? Sadly, no – but I’m better at it than I used to be, and I need to continue to live for Him, as He lived, died and now lives for me and for you. Another verse for me to model is this one: “Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). All these verses (and so many, many more)
tell me how necessary it is for God to be first, and foremost in my life.

Second, to love God is to also desire Him and to yearn for Him. This reminds me of the praise song, Better is One Day, where we sing, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God (from Psalm 84).

Last, to love God is to obey Him and to live for Him. Jesus told us, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15). And Psalm 40:8 says, “I delight to do your will.” This means if I love God (which I do), I will strive to show that by obeying Him – in every way I can, with my mind and intellect,with my actions, and with my possessions (giving Him a tenth of all I have).

Join me this year in seeking to deepen my relationship with our Lord God. My life depends on it – rather my life depends on Him. Amen.

Brand New

“Where did this year go?” How many times have I heard that phrase, or even asked it myself. Each year seems to go by faster than the previous one – either our Lord has sped things up (which is a lot of trouble considering every clock and watch He would need to adjust) or our lives keep getting more and more busy. I opt for the latter reason – God speeding things up just isn’t the way He does things, is it?

I don’t want to write to you about things I’m going to not do in the coming year – we’ve all been there, and if you’re like me, you start out with a bang, fade a bit in the stretch, and find yourself back where you were. It doesn’t always go that way, but sometimes it sure seems like it, doesn’t it?

And then, something happened to Lisa and to me – we’re now grandparents! Sarah and James’ daughter Sydney was born November 21st – our granddaughter is (as I write this) 5 weeks old. How can this be? The miracle of birth is always amazing, and even more so as it happens to your daughter and son-in-law. This Christmas Day was amazing – but will be even more so next year, as she’ll be over a year old. A brand new life – a brand new start. Remembering the past, but now looking ahead.

That’s what our new sermon series is about – it’s about not looking back, but completely looking forward to the “Brand New” start – watching, learning, moving out from – seeing what God is doing in your life and in my life. Listed on the front of this newsletter is our preaching schedule – scriptures and topics about this brand new life God is actively doing in us.

As we begin this new year 2018, please join me in praying daily for each other, and for the impact God wants to make in this community through us. Paul gives us the perfect verses in Philippians 1:3-6:

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. (Philippians 1:3-6 – from the Message)

May this also be our prayer – and may we see it lived out all throughout this coming year. Amen.

Deliberate

Deliberate – an adjective. Something done consciously and
intentionally. Other key descriptive words include intentional,
calculated, conscious, intended, planned, studied, knowing, willful,
purposeful, purposive, premeditated, and preplanned.
That’s a dictionary definition of the word deliberate. For me, this
definition begs the question: How deliberate are we about our
relationship to Jesus Christ? That is, as we live our lives, do we
live them in a deliberate way – bent on lives that describe and
demonstrate Jesus?
Faith has the opportunity to be lived out consciously and
intentionally – deliberately. What does God’s Word say to us about
this? Here are five things we need to remember – and do:
Love God above all else. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” God created us to be in fellowship with Him – it’s the basis for us, so when we are not in fellowship, we are out of sync – out of what and where He created us to be.

Love others as yourself. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Study God’s Word. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. These are all qualities of how we should live – we find them in God’s Word to us.

Pray. Life is much more than a simple prayer. Paul tells us to pray “without ceasing”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17). Praying helps keep our hearts in tune with God, and often brings our will in line with His.

Live out your faith. Be doers of the word, not hearers only (James 1:22). A belief that is not authentic enough to influence our actions is probably not a belief that is serious.

The challenge before us is to strive to live out these intentionally. Let’s consider the word deliberate as we, in faith, follow our Lord Jesus Christ in:
Worship – may we be deliberate in our pursuit of simply worshiping God.

Prayer – may our prayer time be deliberate, seeking and praying for God’s direction, His power in our lives, His motives sought and followed.

Stewardship – may our motives be that which seeks to glorify God, remembering all that we have is His, remembering the use of our time, our talent and our treasure for God’s glory is a privilege He gives us, a privilege that should be deliberately lived out each day of our lives.

Knowledge – may we be deliberate in our study and application of God’s Word, not just in the reading of, but also in the living out of God’s Word.

Love – may we be deliberate in our love – our love first of God, and second, of our neighbor.

Life – may our very lives be the deliberate intention to please God, not out of fear but of the joy that is ours from Him.

Join me in striving to be deliberate, not hap-hazard, in our pursuit of the One who pursued us and made us His through His Son Jesus – our Lord and our Savior. Amen.
Mark

Who Needs God?

Easter is just around the corner – and it seems we just celebrated Christmas! These Christian events are the most celebrated during the calendar year, both by followers of Jesus, and by the community at large. For business, it’s increased income, what with presents purchased and cards sent. For the church, it’s increased activities and larger attendance.eastercrossandclouds

But what about us as individuals? What about you and what about me? What’s important to you and to me at these special times of the year? Do you draw nearer to God? Do I draw nearer to God?

Who Needs God?

We know the quick answer is everybody needs God. We know it for a variety of reasons. But does the world know the answer? How would they answer this question?

During this season of Lent (beginning with the 1st Sunday of March), we’ll be looking to God’s Word for the answers to this question, for you and for me, and for everyone. It’s how God’s Word answers this question and it’s also then what you and I do with God’s answer. When you and I know God’s answer it places so much more on what we do with both Christmas and Easter, for ourselves and for our church – to the marketplace, to our neighborhoods, anywhere we are, and everywhere we are.

The Apostle Paul explained it this way: For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Paul realized what mattered – and for us, whether it be Christmas or Easter (or any other time of the year), this is what matters – Jesus!

As people who follow Jesus, we know this – and we can make the most of our lives, living for Him. And for those who don’t know Him and therefore do not follow Him, they hopefully can see Him in us – in what we say and in what we do.

There are two main events happening at Orenco Church during Lent (beginning in March and running up until Easter Sunday) that I hope you’ll take advantage of – our new sermon series about Who Needs God? and our Wednesday night study series about the Last Week of Jesus’ Life (every Wednesday, from March 1st through April 5th). Not only do I hope you’ll be there for each of these, but that you’ll also bring others with you. That’s my hope – and that’s my prayer!

This Easter season – may Jesus Christ deepen His relationship with us – each of us. Amen!