The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Do-Overs

THE CALL STILL ECHOES ACROSS THE PLAYGROUND, “I call Do-Overs!” It’s that magical phrase one utters when they have served the ball badly in games like four-square. Many a game has been saved through the declaration of those power-infused words.

Two-thousand years ago another set of power-infused set of words were uttered, words that would forever change the course of not only history, but time itself. Those words were, “He is not here, He has risen!” In some sense it was the God injected “Do-Over.” In, and through, the resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah, from the dead, God was declaring that we were given the grace-filled opportunity to start over again from all the previous bad starts.

Through the death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross the penalty of our sin was paid, and through His resurrection we have been granted new life. Jesus Himself has proclaimed, “Because I live, you too shall live.” (John 14:19) For those who place their faith, trust, hope, belief in the Person of Jesus a divine “do-over” is granted. The blessed gift of God’s grace is bestowed, and a new life is started. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Are you in need of a “Do-Over” in your life? God’s gracious gift is still offered to you. There is no better day than today to receive that gift and begin anew.

The ball is in your court.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fog

LIVING IN A FOG is not always a bad thing.

When a fog settles down upon our little valley a unique event takes place. Trees, usually lost among the forest, now stand in singular relief against the gray curtain of early morning mist. That which was once not seen, is now noticed. Though we often understand fog as that which obscures our sight, in reality it can help us to see.

A fog can also settle upon us emotionally. Our spirits feel damp and sullen, we move forward unsure of that which lies before us. We find ourselves living somewhere between the light of a new morning and the lingering night. But, just like the shroud that sometimes settles upon our valley, a spiritual and emotional fog can help us to see things in new relief.

The foggy days of our lives are times for us to focus upon that which we can see rather on that which we cannot. It is an opportunity for us to search more intently and to listen more carefully, for it may be during these times of shadow that we experience the closeness of God. It is often in the darkened gardens of prayer that the assurance of God’s presence can be felt most distinctly. As our Lord Jesus taught us through His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, calling out to God from the darkness and doubt of our lives allows us to see in stark relief that which was hidden in plain sight.

When faced with an encompassing fog, allow it to quiet your spirit, refocus the eyes of your heart, and see the God who is there.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Brand New Park

CRESTING THE HILL ON QUAIL HOLLOW road I was amazed to see the green expanse of grassy parkland in the distance. Bright, beautiful, rising terraces of spring-time green, this park-like setting beckoned me on. But wait! That’s no park, that’s the dump! (Now euphemistically referred to as “The Ben Lomond Transfer Station.”)

Underneath those verdant hills lay years of garbage. Some of it mine. The sculptured seeded somewhat appealing scene may have looked inviting on the surface, but the death and decay which lie beneath could no doubt make your toes curl. You can dress it up, rename it, but it’s still the dump.

As I pondered this uneasy reality I wondered if the landscape before me was a picture of my own life. On the surface things look almost park-like, while underneath garbage abounded. Not a pretty thought, and not unlike the Lord Jesus’ comments to the Pharisees about being white-washed tombs full of dead man’s bones. (Matthew 23:27) Yet, there is a grand and wonderful difference between the Ben Lomond Transfer Station and myself; it is the all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. The Word of God reminds us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, not just the surface stuff, but down to the dredges! (1 John 1:7-9) What a glorious truth!

It is this deep, from the inside out, cleaning, that allows us to flourish. The garbage of sin is replaced by the growth-causing presence of the Holy Spirit. The work of Christ was not just to make us look better, or to dress us up, but to completely, radically change us from deep within. We are a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Now, there’s a reason to celebrate!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Praying with Jesus

PRAYER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST BLESSINGS WE POSSESS. Consider this great truth, that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, have access to the very throne of God. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) The blessing of this truth goes even deeper when we read the words that proceed it, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

We read in the these verses that we do not stand alone before the throne of God, but in fact, stand with our Lord, Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is the one who is constantly, consistently, interceding for us before God the Father. It is this truth that the Apostle Paul writes of to the Romans, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:31-34) When you and I go to prayer we are in reality joining the One who is already praying for us. In prayer, Jesus invites us to join Him the high holy work He is performing as the eternal High Priest. (Hebrews 7) So, let us remember that we not only pray to, and throughwith. Jesus, but also,

Thus, if we desire to truly learn how to pray the best way is to learn from the Master.

As we walk through the Lenten season on the journey to the Cross consider how are Lord prayed during His Passion. His prayers where prayers prayed in the midst of great turmoil and pain. The prayers lifted for the disciples, recorded in John’s Gospel, He prayed while dealing with the reality of having to leave those with which He has closely lived for three years. Yet, this prayer was prayed for them to know His peace. In Garden of Gethsemane, as He prayed experiencing such tremendous weight that He bled through His sweat glands, He prayed for God’s will to be done. And on the Cross, where He was crucified for our sins, it was there through the excruciating pain of nail pierced flesh, He prayed for His crucifiers, “Father forgive.” It was there, where He was to be forsaken by the Father God whom He had known from eternity, that He brought prayerful comfort to the criminal who hung with Him, “I tell you the truth, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” In the midst of His own suffering Jesus prayed for others. His pain was the catalyst to seek the Father, not for His own relief, but for the relief of others.

As we learn to pray from the Master, there is this lesson; when faced with our own turmoil and pain, let it become for us, as it became for Jesus, the catalyst for compassion. As we rush to the One who is interceding for us, let us join Him in praying for others who too are suffering. Let us join our Master and Savior in the high and holy work of prayer.